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Food Stamps Don't Pay All Female Hygiene Products Can't Be Bought With Food Stamps

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Friends gather to process donations of sanitary products to Project Dignity, which is now operating in Rutherford County. To learn more visit the website at projectdignitywnc.com.

It's pretty simple. The government doesn't do it all. Food Stamps (now known as SNAP) don't pay for everything.

Soap, toilet paper, and toothpaste are not paid for by the government, and the SNAP program has been reduced in recent years. Those who qualify are at lower and lower levels of income.

Enter Project Dignity, a regional organization now operating in Rutherford County, to provide sanitary napkins and tampons to women living in shelters or who can't afford these items on limited incomes.

One of the most shocking statements in the group's literature is simply, "Millions of girls miss school every year from a lack of sanitary products."

If you don't think poverty can break your spirit, try rereading that last sentence.

Barb Morgan founded the Western North Carolina group that works primarily in Henderson and Buncombe counties, and serves 31 public schools, seven charter schools and 19 agencies that serve the underprivileged. Linda Shepherd is now working with the group to serve Rutherford County.

In August Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy's three campuses will receive sanitary products to give to their low income girls or others in need.

"Menses is still a taboo. People just don't talk about it; and many schools and agencies are run by people who just don't think about it," Shepherd said from her Rutherfordton home.

Both Morgan and Shepherd can be contacted through the group's website, projectdignitywnc.com.

What is today a program touching thousands of lives began with a phone call between Morgan and her son. He was going through a rough patch and needed food stamps. He told his mom he was out of toilet paper. She asked him why he wasn't using his food stamps to pay for the needed product. He told her food stamps don't pay for such.

One thing led to another and Barb began telling her friends about the need for feminine hygiene products for women, especially low income girls in schools.

Her friends responded and today the effort is on a big scale.

A recent effort by Project Dignity, Mountain Xpress, Proctor and Gamble and MANNA food bank resulted in the donation of 300,000 female hygiene items by P&G to the local program.

One social worker in the Henderson County schools reported the pads have already had the impact of keeping girls in school.

Poverty is already a bum steer for many young people working to do well in school. Add absenteeism because of not having period products and girls experience more hurdles on their way to education.

One national study revealed one in five girls miss school because of a lack of sanitary products.

Shepherd said people often donate food and money to low-income charities, but don't think of paper products, especially not sanitary products.

"Women are emotionally devastated to start with by their circumstances and now they have to deal with no feminine products. I have wanted to give back to the community since moving here seven years ago. I needed an organization and found one in an article about Barb," Shepherd said.

"We still need local businesses to set up donation bins," she said while expressing gratitude to Alternatives In Hair in Forest City for being a donation drop off point. Folks who want to help can stop by Alternatives In Hair or donate through the website.

The Rutherford County agencies that will be served by Project Dignity are: Salvation Army, Shelters of Hope, Hickory Nut Gorge Food Pantry, and Neighbors Pantry. The board of Project Dignity is considering a proposal to supply all public school campuses in Rutherford County. Readers who know of a need should contact one of the agencies listed above beginning in June.

Barb Morgan had quite an emotional reaction when those 300,000 female hygiene items arrived at the MANNA Food Bank warehouse. Imagine. It all began over one simple phone call over her son needing toilet paper.

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