Back before the pandemic began, Kathryn Johnson, our Volunteer Coordinator, was taking part in the 2019 Phinney Neighborhood Association’s Book Swap, when she ran into Kate Hawk-Ritenauer of Seattle T2P2, Towers of Tampons and Pyramids of Pads. They got to talking about their organizations’ missions and work, and quickly realized there was huge potential for mutual support. A resource swap was arranged, and that budding relationship has now blossomed into a beautiful partnership!
We recently chatted with Kate about T2P2’s mission, the idea of ‘period poverty,’ and how we all can support menstruators in our community. Read the full interview below to learn more!
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and T2P2’s mission?
I founded T2P2 (Towers of Tampons and Pyramids of Pads) with two other friends, Jen Post and Amanda Webber. I experienced a tremendous lack of access to period products in women’s shelters and after researching the problem, I learned that not only are pads and tampons crazy expensive, they aren’t available on government assistance programs like food stamps and WIC. I literally had someone tell me that they often have to choose between food for their family or a box of tampons.
In fact, 46% of Americans struggle to afford period supplies each month. This is called period poverty. In 2017, T2P2 set out to create a menstrual product donation collective committed to disrupting period poverty throughout Seattle and beyond. We are three working moms and we do this all volunteer, in our spare time, and operate out of our garages because we believe to create a more equitable society, we must make period products accessible to all. Tampons should be free! Period.
To solve this problem, we need everyone to recognize the extreme lack of access to period products and the tremendous impact period poverty has on our society.
- Period supplies cost $7.99 at the average drug store. They are not covered under government assistance programs and there is not a single national organization providing free, or even subsidized, period products.
- Four out of 5 teens either missed or knew someone who missed class because they did not have access to period products.
- Thirty of 50 U.S. states still have a tax on tampons and other essential menstrual hygiene products, making it increasingly difficult for some to purchase those necessities.
- There are so many people without access to period products. It creates a social and economic impact when people have to miss school or work.
What was the inspiration for starting T2P2? (what is the impact of T2P2?)
There are so many things you can get for free, subsidized, or covered under insurance. Period supplies are not one of those things. They are a necessity and needed by most women once a month but they are considered a luxury item. We think that is BS, so we started T2P2 to help people who don’t have access. We are on track to distribute half a million period products to people experiencing homelessness, people with a low income, students, individuals with disabilities, and people in disaster and emergency situations.
T2P2 supports over 15,000 menstruators in Seattle and beyond. We are the #1 provider of pads and tampons to Seattle Public Schools, and last year we launched a campaign called #FreeTheTampons where we drop handfuls of tampons (with the hashtag #FreeTheTampons) in public restrooms around the city to increase awareness about period poverty.
How did you first get to know FamilyWorks?
In 2018, we were donating a lot of period packs to area food banks and I learned about the amazing work being done at FamilyWorks. Amanda and I showed up one day unannounced with several hundred period packs to donate to the FamilyWorks community and we have been donating ever since.
FamilyWorks is honored to be able to partner with you to provide our participants with menstrual products. How do you partner with local organizations to carry out your mission?
In the beginning, when people didn’t know about us, we would host our own period product drives at our homes, breweries, restaurants, bars, parking lots, garages, etc. Any place that would have us! We would then donate those products to local food banks, shelters, and schools. Five years later, we are so lucky to have volunteers, small businesses, groups and clubs hosting their own T2P2 drives. As a result, we are able to be a more consistent and reliable resource to our partner organizations servicing those in our community like FamilyWorks.
Can you give us a sense of the scope of the menstrual products you distributed in 2021?
In 2021, we distributed over 100,000 pads and tampons to 5,000 menstruators. That’s 416 menstruators a month!!
What do you envision for the future of T2P2? Or what are your goals for T2P2 in 2022?
Our goal this year is to have more partners and volunteers hosting T2P2 period product drives. We are a small group of volunteers and need all the help we can get to keep up with demand. For example, Renton schools recently reached out for 6,000 period packs. We have school groups, book clubs, hair salons, gyms, yoga studios, restaurants, preschools, bars, mortgage offices, marketing agencies, and community centers hosting drives for us. But in order to fulfill a request for 6,000 period packs, we need even more support. We are growing our drive outreach program through social media campaigns and we just launched a new Period Product Drive Toolkit.
How can people get involved and support your work?
Hosting a Period Product Drive and helping us build towers of tampons and pyramids of pads is something anyone can do to help fight period poverty. If you would like to host a drive, please fill out this form and we will get you all the materials needed for a successful drive.
Donate pads and tampons this Women’s History Month to any drop box around Seattle:
- The Phinney Center
- Shelter Lounge Ballard
- Shelter Lounge Greenlake
- Seattle Clinical Research Center
- Vanity Hair Seattle
Like, Comment and share our posts on social media @SeattleT2P2.
Anything else you’d like to add? A message for the FamilyWorks community?
March is Women’s History Month. It’s a time to celebrate all women with T2P2 by donating period supplies or making a monetary donation to our nonprofit. We need all the help we can get to Help People Period and Fight Period Poverty.