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Doesn’t the government help?

Despite the existence of government assistance programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplement Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), there are still gaps in the provision of certain products. This lack of access to hygiene products can have detrimental effects on a person’s physical and mental health.

What about period products? Period products are explicitly excluded right now from SNAP & WIC benefits, especially for uninsured individuals who are not able to use flexible spending or health savings accounts.

Not only can it lead to infection and illnesses, especially among members of our more vulnerable populations (women, children, and low-income individuals), but to social and emotional issues like shame, anxiety, and isolation.

SNAP, also known as Food Stamps, helps low-income households in Colorado purchase food. It provides a monthly benefit that helps families and individuals buy the food they need for good health. The benefit is provided based on income, resources and the number of individuals in the household. (Colorado Department of Human Services SNAP)

WIC provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.  (Colorado WIC)

Where does this leave someone struggling with hygiene poverty? This means those struggling to make ends meet oftentimes must make hard decisions like whether to put food on the table in lieu of buying period products that would allow them to go to work or send their child to school.

Currently, there is proposed legislation in nearly 15 states and local jurisdictions to make period products readily available in school bathrooms.

The Menstrual Hygiene Products Accessibility Grant Program was created by the Colorado Senate Bill 22-155, “Free Menstrual Hygiene Products to Students” that was signed into law on July 6, 2021. The program aims to provide free menstrual products and disposal to all students regardless of their gender identity. Education providers may use program funding to purchase menstrual hygiene products, including sanitary napkins, tampons and pantyliners, and to purchase and install menstrual hygiene product dispensers, disposal receptacles, and disposal receptacle liners. In the 2021-2022 school year, approximately $100,000 in funding was awarded to 39 Colorado districts and schools, and the program is expected to continue each school year.” (www.cde.state.co.us/healthandwellness/menstrualhygieneproducts)

This legislation provides for the school years between 2021 – 2024.

To see what states currently have legislation in place requiring schools to provide period products to students or allow for use of funds to provide those products view this legislation map.

Other hygiene products needed for households that are not included in SNAP or WIC are: soaps, deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste, cosmetics, diapers, wipes.

Discount Services for EBT Card Holders

For Colorado card holders, please visit the Colorado SNAP Page

Common Terms Related to SNAP & WIC

Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT): EBT is an electronic system that allows a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participant to pay for food using SNAP benefits. When a participant shops at a SNAP authorized retail store, their SNAP EBT account is debited to reimburse the store for food that was purchased. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)

According to our 2022 survey, 53% of surveyed females admitted to struggling to find access to essential basic hygiene products. This leads to a huge Hygiene Poverty problem. Hygiene poverty is not being able to afford many of the everyday hygiene and personal grooming products. (The Hygiene Bank)

Hygiene poverty can affect person hygiene such as, dental, body, handwashing, nails, menstrual, and genital, to environmental and kitchen hygiene.

Hygiene Poverty prevents individuals from not only feeling confident in finding a job, but also impacts the individual’s health and well-being. Individuals and families that are affected by Hygiene Poverty tend to rely on Food banks* and pantries* to get their basic hygiene needs.

Here are some essential hygiene items every household should have for maintaining good personal hygiene and preventing the spread of illness and disease:

  • Toilet Paper

  • Facial Tissues

  • Soap

  • Shampoo

  • Deodorant

  • Toothbrush/Toothpaste

  • Tampons/Pads/Panty Liners

  • Diapers/Wipes

  • Razors/Shaving Cream

  • Paper Towels

  • Bandages

  • Antibiotic Ointment

  • Brush/Comb

  • Sunscreen

  • Lip Balm

  • Lotion

  • Cotton Swabs/Cotton Pads

  • Make-Up

  • Hair Products

  • Household Cleaning Products (i.e.,All-Purpose Cleaner)

  • Household Cleaning Tools (i.e., toilet brush, mop, broom, dustpan)

  • Trash Bags

  • Sponge

  • Antibacterial Spray/Antibacterial Wipes

  • Dish Soap

  • Laundry Detergent

  • Bleach

  • Stain Remover

  • Thermometer

Common Terms Related to Hygiene Poverty

Difference between hygiene and cleanliness: Hygiene refers to behaviors that can improve cleanliness and lead to good health, such as frequent handwashing, facial cleanliness, and bathing with soap and water. (Center for Disease Control and Prevention)

Hygiene: Hygiene is a science of the establishment and maintenance of health. Conditions or practices (as of cleanliness) conducive to health. (Merriam Webster)

Personal Hygiene: According to Medical journals and Medical Associations, hygiene can be broken down into six categories. Within the categories, these are their recommendations.

  • Hand Hygiene:

    • Wash hands before, during and after preparing a meal

    • Wash hands before eating

    • Wash hands after going to the restroom

    • Wash hands if you are caring for anyone who is sick, vomiting or experiencing diarrhea

    • Wash hands after changing a baby's diaper or an adult’s incontinence diaper

    • Wash hands after blowing your nose, coughing and/or sneezing

    • Wash hands after handling pet-related items, such as food and cleaning-up after your pet

  • Dental:

    • Brush teeth for 2 minutes twice a day

    • Floss daily

    • Replace toothbrush every 3 - 4 months

  • Body:

    • Shower, Bath, Soap, Shampoo, Deodorant helps removes the bacteria on the skin, can prevent skin irritation and also reduces body odor

  • Nails:

    • Fingernails can trap dirt and germs; nails can also get infected requiring medical attention

    • Regular use of nail clipper, nail files and good handwashing can help reduce the risk of infection as well as the spread of infection

  • Menstrual & Genital Hygiene:

    • Change period product regularly

    • Clean genitals daily with mild soap and water

    • Wipe front to back after using the bathroom

    • Wash hands before and after inserting a period product

    • Wash hands before and after using the bathroom

    • Avoid using products that may disrupt the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina and lead to infections

  • Wound Care:

    • Clean wound right away by gently rinsing it with clean water

    • Apply thin layer of antibiotic ointment or other doctor recommended ointment to help prevent infection

    • Cover the wound with sterile bandage or gauze

    • Keep the wound clean and dry

    • Watch for signs of infection (redness, swelling, warmth, pus) and contact a healthcare provider immediately if you notice these signs

    • Seek help immediately if wound is deep or shows signs of infection

  • Clothing Hygiene:

    • Clean clothes help with the feeling of dignity and also can reduce the risk of odors or infections

    • Protects skin from irritants and allergens

Environmental & Kitchen Hygiene:

  • Environmental Hygiene

    • Surfaces visibly free of soil

Kitchen Hygiene:

  • Safe food and storage preparation

Negative Effects of Personal Hygiene:

  • Hygiene Related Diseases according to the Center For Disease Control and Prevention can include:

    • Tooth Decay

    • Gum Disease

    • CavitiesBad Breath

    • Head Lice

    • Athlete’s Foot

    • Various skin infections, scabies, ringworm

    • Social Impact

    • Emotional Impact

  • Conditions Poor Hygiene can indicate

    • Alzehimer’s Disease

    • Dementia

    • Depression

Food Bank:  A food bank is a warehouse for millions of pounds of food and other products that go out to the community. (Feeding America)

Food Pantry: A food pantry functions as the arms that reach out to that community directly. Some use mobile food pantries, which reach people in areas of high need. (Feeding America)

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