OTTAWA -- Menstrual products will be available for free at four city of Ottawa community centres.

Under a proposed pilot project, menstrual products will be available in female and universal washrooms at Albion Heatherington Community Centre, Overbrook Community Centre, Sandy Hill Community Centre and Foster Farm Community Centre.

Last February, Coun. Jenna Sudds asked staff to investigate the cost and feasibility of implementing a program to provide menstrual products in city facilities.

“I have full confidence that if men menstruated, there would (be) menstrual products available everywhere,” Sudds wrote in her inquiry.

“Providing women and girls with access to free menstrual products will help to alleviate the burden low-income women face while on their period, allowing these individuals to thrive.”

The city consulted with several Ontario municipalities that have conducted free menstrual product pilot projects in facilities, including London and Hamilton.

“Feedback from most jurisdictions on the start-up phase indicates that while the community response is positive, the up-front and ongoing servicing costs are significant, and usage is relatively low,” staff said.

Staff collaborated with the city’s Community and Social Services Department to identify four facilities located in neighbourhoods that may benefit from free menstrual products.

A total of $58,000 has been set aside for a one-year pilot project to purchase menstrual products, produce and distribute communications materials to the community and education campaigns. The cost includes $295 to purchase and install a dispenser.

There are currently nine city facilities with menstrual product dispensers. There are 23 dispensers installed at Ottawa City Hall and nine at the Mary Pitt Centre.

City staff say despite the low dispensing fee ranging from $0.25 to $1 per menstrual product, “there has been low usage at most locations.”