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'They feel pride': Blue Valley School District students help nonprofit fight period poverty

Blue Valley students package period products
Posted at 11:28 AM, Sep 14, 2023

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — According to most recent data from Period Inc., one in four students have difficulty affording period products in the U.S.

A Kansas City-area nonprofit is working to end period poverty.

That’s where Strawberry Week comes in. The nonprofit packages kits filled with period products for people who can’t access them. Difficulty affording period products can stem from several things, from high sales taxes to products not freely available in all public spaces.

Strawberry Week founder Micheala Miller says people not accessing products can result in unsafe management methods.

“It can lead to serious illness. It also affects anxiety and depression in our community,” she said.

Miller has a Master’s degree in nonprofit leadership. She said her community work started with gatherings she’d host with friends, and ask them to bring period products, clothing and more to donate to domestic shelters in the area.

It’s why she felt called to start Strawberry Week.

“When we can contribute something that we can, it adds up,” she said.

The nonprofit provides products for local schools and organizations that help underserved communities. But this project is even bigger than the products they’re packaging.

Strawberry Week has a partnership with the Blue Valley School District in Kansas. Students throughout the district package up the products during a school day.

Transition Specialist Marla Loveall works with students like Nathanael, Joe, and Alessandra, who each have developmental disabilities.

“A lot of times because of their challenges, they are the ones receiving help from others," Loveall said. "This is something they can do that gives back to other people."

Packaging period products for Strawberry Week is where these students shine.

Joe and Nathanael get to practice communicating. Joe uses an iPod to read aloud sentences and phrases he types related to the products he’s packaging. Nathanael lays each product out on a number line, to help him count. And Alessandra gets to practice counting out loud when she’s packaging.

“It does kind of bridge that gap between special education and general education,” Loveall said. “My goal is to get kids working in the community, and so this is a good step to see, can they follow directions, how are they in a number sense, can they match, can they sort, can they do fine motor tasks?”

It’s a reminder that our actions will always say more than our words.

“They feel pride,” Loveall said. “And we emphasize that we help other people, and it gives them a sense of pride that they can help people.”

Micheala Miller said their products come from donations and collection drives, and their biggest collection drive is coming up in November. If you would like to help volunteer or donate products, you can visit Strawberry Week’s website.