MEMPHIS, Tenn. ( – Head to any big box store and you will find an aisle dedicated to feminine products from pads to tampons. Now imagine if young girls in the Mid-South community cannot afford them, they cut class a few days each month.

“It’s hard to think about, but then when you really sort of think about it, the reality is that it is an issue,” said Maggie O’Neill, a guidance counselor at Idlewild Elementary School in Memphis.

Since O’Neill began working at Idlewild she said she has learned girls across Shelby County do not have access to menstrual products.

“We need to recognize as a community that these girls need support. They need to feel empowered and not, you know, if they’re missing school because they feel ashamed or because they don’t know what to do,” said O’Neill.

According to Feeding America’s website, 1 in 5 girls experience what has been called “period poverty.”

“You think about a child or young lady who asked to miss school because of their menstrual cycle and they miss five days once a month nine months. That’s 45 days that that child could potentially miss of school,” said Dr. Lori Phillips, SCS Director of Family and Community Engagement.

Students who miss school for several days are at risk of falling behind academically.

Period poverty is not something Shelby County Schools is tracking, but it is something district officials want to do something about, especially in an area where thousands of students come from low-income homes.

SCS will host a “Necessity Drive” Friday evening to collect menstrual pads, underwear, and toiletries for students.

“Having a drive like this, having people contribute to our cause, and making sure that every school is equipped will not only help reduce the rates of chronic absenteeism, but also getting our babies what they need so they can focus on academic achievement,” said Phillips.

Groups like United Way of the Mid-South spent Wednesday night packing tons of donations before the drive.

Staff and families at Idlewild Elementary stepped up too, collecting donations for Friday.

“There are some students that do need products. I know that in speaking to other counselors at other Shelby County Schools they have a large population of girls who need feminine products,” said O’Neill.

The Necessity Drive is Friday September 14 at the Chick-Fil-A at 1980 Union Avenue.

Between 5:00 p.m. To 7:00 p.m. they will accept sealed packages of menstrual pads, underwear, and toiletries (deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc.). CLICK HERE to learn more.

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