How some Blue Valley students are helping combat ‘period poverty’

Blue Valley Strawberry Week

Blue Valley West junior Joe Neugebauer, a volunteer with Strawberry Week. Photo courtesy of Marla Loveall / Strawberry Week.

A group of Blue Valley students have signed on to help combat a lack of access to period products in the Kansas City area.

This semester, students in the school district’s special education program partnered with local nonprofit Strawberry Week to package menstrual products for those in need.

Blue Valley Strawberry Week
Blue Valley and Strawberry Week volunteers. Photo courtesy of Strawberry Week.

Strawberry Week delivers free menstrual products

Strawberry Week founder Micheala Miller said the nonprofit was borne out of a community need she discovered during her education and her work in the nonprofit sphere.

Strawberry Week aims to combat the impacts of “period poverty” — what the nonprofit defines as a widespread lack of access to menstrual products due to high tax rates and stigma.

The nonprofit does this by hosting donation drives and partnering with schools, libraries and other local organizations across Kansas and Missouri.

Miller said Strawberry Week not only aims to provide products for underserved populations, but also to reduce the stigma around discussing menstruation.

“A huge factor in period poverty is just the way that periods are treated,” she said. “When period products aren’t available in public restrooms, like toilet paper, hand soap and paper towels are, what you’re saying is basically that this item that is needed by half or more of the population, oftentimes on a monthly basis…you’re saying that this health and hygiene item is not essential.”

Students package menstrual products every week

Groups of students at Blue Valley West and Aubry Bend Middle help out by filling bags with menstrual products.

Marla Loveall, who facilitates job opportunities for SPED students in the school’s Career Development Opportunities program, spearheaded the partnership after finding out about what Strawberry Week does.

She said the partnership served as a beneficial opportunity for her students to practice skills like counting, sorting and matching — the type of skills they typically practice in smaller ways in the classroom.

“Sometimes we practice those skills with work boxes, and then those work boxes get taken apart,” she said. “This doesn’t have to be taken apart. This serves a purpose. It’s their chance to help the community, to help the people are oftentimes helping them.”

Miller and Loveall say the project is a win-win

Miller said that even in the past couple of months, having extra help from Blue Valley students has already helped the organization maximize their ability to donate products.

“This was a great way to get a group of volunteers on a consistent basis,” she said. “They’re just making a huge impact all the way around, and we’re able to make larger, more consistent donations.”

Loveall said she’d like to see more volunteer opportunities for SPED students, given that it’s mutually beneficial for the students and the people they’re helping.

“I would love it if we could get more things like this,” she said. “The big thing for me is that it takes the strengths of our kids and it turns them into something that is worthwhile for other people.”

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