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Rochester feels effects of national tampon shortage

The tampon shortage is the latest in a number of widely-reported supply chain shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic — from toilet paper to hand sanitizer to baby formula. The limited supply of tampons has led to steep price increases and stripped consumers of choice in regards to their menstrual hygiene products.

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Tampons are in limited supply at a Rochester big box store on Saturday, June 18, 2022. The tampon shortage is the latest in a number of widely-reported supply chain shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Molly Castle Work / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — Tonya Mogren, a LeRoy resident who works in Rochester, hasn’t been able to find her favorite tampon brand for the past two and a half months. Even while on vacation in Alaska in early June, more than 3,000 miles away, she struck out. Back in Minnesota, she said she sees the same thing at each of her local stores. Tampon prices are through the roof. Brands are missing. Shelves are bare.

Mogren’s experience is part of a national trend. The tampon shortage is the latest in a number of widely-reported supply chain shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic — from toilet paper to hand sanitizer to baby formula. The limited supply of tampons has led to steep price increases and stripped consumers of choice in regards to their menstrual hygiene products.

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The increased price of tampons is an added stressor on top of already inflated grocery and gas costs. Mogren, who commutes more than 90 minutes each day to and from her job at the Mayo Clinic, said the gas prices have hit her hard. She was already having trouble affording basic essentials and now the tampon shortage has intensified the issue. And she’s not alone. She said she’s seen at least four posts on social media in the past five days sharing concerns about the tampon price hikes.

“It’s stressful,” she said. “I mean, we need this. It’s not a luxury; it’s a necessity. It’s like, we can’t even afford to have our periods these days, you know?”

The tampon shortage received national attention in June, but Dana Marlowe, founder and executive director of I Support the Girls , said they’ve been flagging the issue since January. Marlowe said she noticed that donations to the national nonprofit, which provides menstrual hygiene products to folks experiencing homelessness, were much lower than in years past. In fact, from Jan. 1 to June 1, 2022, I Support the Girls received less than half the number of tampons they received during the same time frame the previous year.

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Although I Support the Girls does donate alternatives to tampons, such as maxi pads, menstrual cups and period underwear, alternatives are not always feasible. Marlowe said some people cannot switch to different tampon brands or other products because of possible irritation or fit issues.

Mogren echoed this sentiment. She said she spent years figuring out which brands didn’t work for her, so it’s frustrating that the brand she finally landed on is not available.

“Now I have to settle and make do with what I can,” she said.

Marlowe said she thinks the tampon shortage didn’t get as much attention earlier because the availability of products varies greatly from store to store, but she stressed that this is very much a national trend. I Support the Girls has 59 affiliates in branches across the country, including the Twin Cities, and she said their warehouse shelves have been bare for weeks. She receives a message approximately every hour from someone who can’t find tampons at their local stores.

“It’s a real thing, and it’s happening,” she said. “This has been a very hard month for people with periods.”

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The tampon stock is running low in I Support the Girls warehouses, said Dana Marlowe, executive director and founder of the nonprofit.
Contributed / Dana Marlowe

Marlowe said the tampon shortage is correlated to the ongoing supply chain problems, and cotton and plastic material shortages. The COVID-19 virus spread is likely exacerbating the shortage as it limits the amount of truck drivers and warehouse employees who can physically move products around the country, she said.

Marlowe said it makes her sad that the bare warehouses mean her recipients will have fewer choices in regards to how they manage their menstrual health and hygiene.

Many of her recipients are refugees, survivors of domestic violence or are experiencing homelessness, and rely on food and clothing donations, so they don’t have much say in what they eat or wear. Marlowe said she wants to make sure that her recipients, at the very least, get to have a say in how they manage their menstrual health.

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“So much of what our nonprofit does is around choice,” she said. “Because that’s what dignity is all about.”

Related Topics: ROCHESTERHEALTHBUSINESS
Molly Castle Work is an award-winning investigative journalist. She has investigated a range of topics such as OSHA and worker safety during COVID-19, crisis pregnancy center deceptive practices and white-owned newspapers' role in promoting lynchings. Readers can reach Molly at 507-285-7771 or mwork@postbulletin.com.
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