Free the T Fights Period Poverty
By Cassidy Delano, Contributing Writer
Free the T Project is a student-lead initiative that’s determined to make women’s sanitary products accessible for students on campus.
The project is currently run by seniors Alanna Atkinson and Emilee Eustis, being supervised by Dr. Kate Callahan. The team continues to promote and support student’s health needs while following COVID-19 restrictions, and lack of members.
“The group is funded through UMF’s health club. Free The T Project is part of the Health Club, but is not funded by the Student Senate like other clubs are.”
Free the T started in 2017 when a group of students in HEA410: Resource Management and Grant Writing sent a request to Procter & Gamble’s Tambrands in Auburn, ME, a consumer product company who makes tampons. In response to the request from UMF students, the company donated over 33,000 Tampax brand tampons to UMF.
In 2018 Dr. Callahan, a faculty member on campus, recruited students who had an interest in period poverty and providing tampons to college students. “Period poverty is when daily life is affected due to either not being able to afford menstrual products or not having access to them,” said Eustis.
In the first year of Free the T, the students that participated were tabling in the Student Center during common time. Students were able to see what the project is and also grab a bag of already packaged tampons.
The group also worked towards putting containers in every building’s bathrooms that offered free tampons in a range of sizes.
“The UMF Free the T Project is a way to relieve some of a person’s financial stress by making tampons accessible in every building on the UMF campus,” Atkinson said.
Last year tampon containers were found in every building. Now, due to COVID-19 restrictions there are tampon containers on the first floor of every building.
These restrictions have also affected the groups use of common time, as they cannot table during this time. Before this was a way for them to hand out free tampons, and get people thinking about the project. With this aspect gone, the group is having trouble spreading the word about the project, as well as finding help.
“Due to COVID we have had trouble finding volunteers to help,” Eustis said. “As of now, there are only two or three of us actively doing Free the T duties and searching for more to help.”
Eustis and Atkinson’s duties include refilling buildings each week, helping to run the social media pages (Facebook and Instagram), and any other responsibilities that need to be done as given to them by Dr. Callahan.
Eustis was able to give some insight on what the project has done for her. “Free the T brings not only joy to those who utilize it, but us on the project team as well. I have been a part of the project for three years and wouldn’t have wanted it any other way,” Eustis said. “It has become such a huge part of my journey at UMF and it has become a huge part of my life!”
Atkinson feels the same. “UMF Free the T Project has really opened my eyes to how prevalent period poverty is just in this small community,” Atkinson said, “Free the T has been extremely beneficial in this community. I hope this project continues for years to come.”