The Butterfly Effect Project accepted a donation of 50 knapsacks of maxi pads from the Allied Foundation on May 24. Photo: Denise Civiletti

The Butterfly Effect Project received a donation of 50 knapsacks filled with maxi pads yesterday to mark Period Poverty Awareness week, which draws attention to families unable to afford feminine hygiene products.

The Allied Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by the Allied Physicians group, will provide the bags to local girls through the Butterfly Effect Project and Girls Inc. of Long Island throughout the whole summer, according to the Allied Foundation’s executive director Heather Edwards.

Tijuana Fulford, the Butterfly Effect’s founder, said that many low-income families depend on her organization for essential products, like diapers and baby wipes. (The Allied Foundation also supports local community groups, including the Butterfly Effect Project with donations of diapers and wipes.) Fulford said she has also seen a need from parents of older girls for menstrual products, especially in Black and brown communities.

Fulford recalled her childhood — growing up with four sisters — and her own family’s struggle with sharing and affording hygiene products.

“[My mother] bought what she could afford,” she said. ”There were times where you’d have to wear one longer than they’re intended for.”

Repeated use of disposable feminine hygiene products or using unsafe products in their place present a higher risk of infection. According to the Alliance for Period Supplies, one in four people struggle to purchase period supplies due to low income. This struggle gave rise to the term “period poverty.”

Products have become more accessible in recent years, especially in New York state, where the tax for feminine hygiene products was eliminated in 2016 and products were made mandatory to provide free in schools in 2018.

Fulford wants to eliminate any trace of “period poverty” for young girls in the Butterfly Effect Project’s programs. BEP’s curriculum teaches young girls about self-care and feminine hygiene, along with social skills, public speaking and critical thinking. Fulford started BEP in 2014 with just eight girls and has since expanded to reach over 300 children ages four to 17 in eastern Suffolk.

Fulford said some parents can take a hands-off approach to talking to their daughters about their period, which can cause girls to become misinformed. She wants to ensure girls are knowledgeable about their hygiene and comfortable in their own bodies.

Fulford said the bags of pads will allow girls to have products of their own and apply what they’ve learned about their hygiene to become more independent. “I think that’s one of the most important parts of it,” she said.

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: [email protected]