Ryann Jordan, 18, is a senior at Calhoun High School in...

Ryann Jordan, 18, is a senior at Calhoun High School in Merrick. Credit: Jordan family

A high school senior from Merrick is doing her part to battle period poverty, one care package at a time.

Ryann Jordan has donated more than 100 packages filled with tampons, sanitary pads and feminine wipes to women in need around the region.

“I’m surprised this really isn’t spoken about today,” said the 18-year-old, who is getting ready to graduate from Calhoun High School in Merrick. “It’s a big issue.”

Period poverty refers to the problems faced by teens and women who cannot afford menstrual supplies. It can lead to missed days at school and work, causing emotional and financial issues.

Dr. Tiffany Hunter, an obstetrician and gynecologist affiliated with Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead, noted that period poverty can impact women as young as 8 and up until their late 50s and is most acute among women of color.

“Women are forced to ration menstrual products, use them for longer than recommended periods time or time or to substitute other potentially nonsanitary, nonmenstrual products like toilet paper or baby diapers in substitute for pads, tampons, liners etc. which can have negative physical and psychological impact,” Hunter said.

“It is necessary to decrease the anxiety and stress, the stigma and shame and the thwarted educational and professional growth that result from lack of essential resources to care for a natural monthly physiological process,” she said.

Jordan said she first became aware of the issue from her older sister, a student at Cornell University.

“I had always noticed it was kind of expensive for something that is a necessity for a lot of people,” said Jordan, who plans to study biology and pursue a career as a physician assistant.

About a year ago, Jordan started a project called “For That Time.” Using mostly her own money from summer jobs and with some help from her family, she has been purchasing supplies and putting together brightly wrapped care packages with tampons, sanitary pads, feminine wipes and a motivational message. She has documented her efforts on an Instagram account also titled “For That Time.”

She reached out to social service organizations in an effort to find women in need.

One of those groups is Lutheran Social Services of New York, which helps provide housing for formerly homeless people and a food pantry, as well as programs for children, teen mothers, immigrants and refugees.

Rachel Bleecker, executive director for residential services at Lutheran Social Services of New York, called Jordan a “role model.” 

She pointed to research from the Journal of Global Health Reports that shows two-thirds of the 16.9 million low-income women in the United States could not afford menstrual products in the past year, with a half of them needing to choose between menstrual products and food. More than 14% of college menstruating people in the United States had experienced period poverty in the past year.

“Period poverty is a very real consideration for the women and girls living at our agency's sanctuaries — their resources are limited and scarce,” said Bleecker.

“Ryann is so incredible because she understands that 'your sisters and brothers' are not just the ones you grew up with in your home,” Bleecker said. “We are all kin! And in this case, Ryann is looking out for her sisters.”

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