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Harrogate's hidden period poverty problem

Period poverty box packed with sanitary towels

7:01am 23rd July 2018
(Updated 3:37pm 30th July 2018)

"Think period poverty isn't in Harrogate? Think again." 

That's the message from a mum-of-four, who is taking donated sanitary products into local schools.

Jay Kelly started co-ordinating The Red Box project in Harrogate after finding out 1 in 10 girls have been unable to afford sanitary wear.

Originally set up by mums in Portsmouth, The Red Box project now has branches across the UK.

Jay works as a local co-ordinator covering Harrogate, Knaresborough and Pateley Bridge, and gives businesses empty boxes to fill with donated period products, which she takes into local secondary schools.

She said: 

"There's a huge amount of poverty in Harrogate that goes under the radar. 49% of girls have admitted to not going into school because they don't have adequate protection, so they may be using bundles of tissues or tripling up on pants. Or worse still, using a tampon for the whole day".

Jay is a single parent with four daughters and understands the issue of hidden poverty in schools - she knows of a pupil who asks for leftover items from other children's lunchboxes. 

Jay Kelly and her daughter

She says some families who aren't receiving financial support are still struggling because of the high cost of living.

When Jay has been into local schools to deliver the boxes, she says teachers have been overwhelmed.

She added:

"The reactions have been amazing. They've varied between massive appreciation and tears - because some of these teachers are buying sanitary products for the students out of their pockets each month. They know the stress it causes and the embarrassment."

Harrogate High School is one of the places Jay has taken donated products.

Harrogate High School

Victoria Green, the Health Support Officer at Harrogate High School, said: 

"For a charity to be able to provide sanitary products is just amazing for the school because it allows us to use money on other things - like food vouchers and school uniforms."

All of the schools with donation boxes have posters in the girls' toilets, to let them know exactly where they can find the supplies they need - not just for the day, but for their whole cycle if necessary.

Jay has been to nearly all the secondary schools in Harrogate, Knaresborough and Pateley Bridge and hopes to be able to start helping girls in primaries too.

First though, she needs to make sure there are enough donations to fill the 10 boxes which are already in local secondary schools.

Several businesses have got behind the campaign - surprisingly, a barber's in Harrogate has been the most successful place at filling donation boxes so far.

Jay is urging people to consider donating a packet of sanitary towels or tampons - and to raise awareness that period poverty does exist in the area.

You can find out more about The Red Box project by visiting their website. Details of local boxes can be found on Harrogate's The Red Box Facebook page, or by emailing redboxharrogate@gmail.com.

Hear what happened on Stray FM's Health and Wellbeing Show when Lizzy McEllan found out more:

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