Andrea Wilkinson/Nevada Sagebrush
A storage POD sits outside the office of Northern Nevada HOPES on Sunday, Sept. 24. HOPES and The Alchemist Theatre have teamed up to start a drive that provides female high school students with free feminine products.

Members of the Reno community are teaming up to help high school female students in need gain access to free feminine products. The Alchemist Theatre and Northern Nevada HOPES started a campaign on Wednesday, Sept. 20, called PODS for Pads where people can donate feminine products for young women who can’t afford them.

The campaign aims to fill an entire eight foot by eight foot storage POD with pads, tampons and other feminine products by Friday, Oct. 20. The POD is located at the Northern Nevada HOPES building on 580 W. 5th Street and is open from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays for in-person donations.

At the end of the month-long project, the products will be delivered to Title I schools, schools with students that predominately come from low-income families, in Washoe County based on necessity assessed by school nurses.

Jessica Levity, a co-creator of the Alchemist Theater, wanted to start the project in 2014 after she heard about teachers using their own pocket money to buy female students these products so they wouldn’t miss school.

However, it did not get off the ground until now because the nature of the project drove away sponsors.

“No one wants to touch a feminine product drive because women’s bodies are considered inherently controversial,” said Levity.

According to Levity, the Washoe County School District will only allow pads to be donated to the schools, but PODS for Pads is accepting all types of feminine products at the drive. The ones that can’t be donated to schools will go to nonprofit organizations such as Our Center, Reno Initiative for Shelter and Equality, The Eddy House and Women and Children’s Center of the Sierras. The Alchemist Theatre will then get the word out to female students that they can find more product options at these organizations.

One aim of this campaign is to create a conversation around the need these students have for feminine products and try to eliminate the stigma that comes with periods and female products.

The Alchemist Theatre and Northern Nevada HOPES are hosting a community conversation on Wednesday, Oct. 4, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Northern Nevada HOPES office. They will be discussing issues such as why tampons can’t be donated to schools, the sexualization and politicization of young women’s bodies and the lack of data on students who can’t afford these products.

The panel is being put together by the other co-creator of the Alchemist Theatre, Christopher Daniels, a former sex educator for Planned Parenthood. They hope to have a high school nurse, teacher and student along with more sex educators on the panel.

Levity said that she wants to apply for a grant so a study can be done on how many young women can’t afford feminine products and consequently miss school.

“We know that girls in these schools are missing school monthly for days, but we don’t know how many and we don’t know how big of a problem it is,” said Levity. “Making girls ashamed about needing products and missing school, what effect is that having?”

Levity hopes PODS for Pads can become a yearly event to help schoolgirls in the community. She wants to empower them not be embarrassed about the natural cycles their bodies go through and end the “silenced culture” around periods that adds to the controversy of women’s bodies.

“How much better would a young female’s life be if she didn’t hate her period?” Levity said.

Students at UNR that can’t afford feminine products can find access to them at the Health Center and at Pack Provisions.

Madeline Purdue can be reached at mpurdue@sagebrush.unr.edu and on Twitter @madelinepurdue.