In a Government bid to improve period equity, thousands of free pads and tampons have been provided to Bay of Plenty school children this last year.
And while it's an initiative that has made a difference, advocates say adding period underwear to the initiative would be a welcome and sustainable addition.
The Government announced this time last year it would begin a nationwide rollout of free period products in schools, to be available to all by June last year. This followed a pilot in the Waikato region.
At the time, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said providing free period products at school was one way the Government could directly address poverty, help increase school attendance, and make a positive impact on children's wellbeing.
In the Bay of Plenty, 153 schools and kura opted in to phase one of the initiative.
This included 35 in Tauranga, six in Mount Maunganui and eight in Te Puke.
Hundreds of thousands of tampons and pads have been supplied so far: in the Bay, 3000 cartons each containing 12 packs of product, which woud provide enough for six students to manage one menstrual cycle.
Tauranga Girls' College principal Tara Kanji said the initiative was appreciated.
While tampons were favoured over pads, period underwear was what "most girls would prefer," she said.
These were not yet included in the initiative, but some had been provided by period equity advocacy group Dignity.
"The girls talk about how comfortable they are to wear, and there is no leakage ... something more sustainable."
The underwear "fly out the door", and the products were stored at various places around school.
Dignity general manager Anika Speedy said there was "such a huge need".
"We know it has such a huge influence on school kids' ability to participate, engage and on self-confidence."
She said it would be fantastic to see more sustainable products, such as period underwear, be introduced to the initiative.
Covid-19 had doubled, if not tripled, the need for help in accessing period products, she said.
At some of the organisations it worked with, rags and newspapers were used in lieu of pads and tampons.
Edgecumbe College principal Mike Jackson had only positive things to say about the initiative.
The school had been working to improve student attendance and opted in at the beginning of last year.
It was about removing barriers to accessing school, he said.
"Who knows why these things aren't available at home, that's none of my concern. We just want to make sure the kids have got what they need to be here, really.
"We're really grateful for the opportunity."
Of the 180 students at the school, he said about 30 per cent of those in need were using the products available to them.
It worked on a "high trust model", in that the students were all told at the beginning of the year about the initiative, and could just go and get anything they needed from the nurse's office without the need to ask.
"It doesn't become an embarrassment for them ... this is a place they need to feel safe, secure and looked after."
He said it was a fairly low socio-economic area, and to have the products available was fantastic.
Te Puke's Te Ranga School educated children in Year 1 to Year 8.
Principal Brendan Wilson said the initiative had been beneficial.
"It's something that promotes equality, and we're happy with how it is going."
The information of products being available was given to Years 7 and 8 through the school puberty programme.
Pupils are split into boys and girls for some lessons and when the girls are together a female teacher tells them about it.
From then, the children can ask at the office if they need a product.
"As a country school, the kids are pretty relaxed about such things. It's a family environment, they know the staff well. It's something that is accessible and they are pretty comfortable with."
Ministry of Education operations and integration leader Sean Teddy Hautū said 1988 schools and kura opted in nationwide - 76 per cent of all state and state-integrated schools in New Zealand.
This was 94 per cent of estimated menstruating students in eligible schools and kura, he said. About 342,791 students are able to access product through the initiative, including about 27,520 in the Bay of Plenty.
"The initiative provides access and choice for any schools that identify a need, including schools where a need may not be obvious."
For example, a number of single-sex boys' schools partnered with other local schools for particular classes or across year groups and included students of more than one gender.
He said poor access to period products could affect students' attendance and engagement at school.
"Students can endure the stigma of not being supported to properly manage what is a normal, healthy fact of life and miss out on learning, sporting and cultural activities, affecting their achievement and wellbeing."
Findings from the Youth19 Survey found 12 per cent of year 9 to 13 students who menstruated reported difficulty getting access to products because of cost.
Until June 2024, a budget of $25.6 million was available, $2.65m of which had been spent to date.
For phase one product delivery, each school or kura arranged for students to collect products discreetly depending on what worked best there.
For phase two of the initiative, schools will order through an online portal and participating schools can also order dispensers to be installed in bathrooms.
This stage will begin during Term One, and will look at increasing the product variety; at the moment, packs of pads and tampons, regular and super absorbency, are available.
Hautū said feedback to date had been overwhelmingly positive: "Schools have provided feedback on the shifts in culture at school as the provision of product is beginning to reduce the stigma around periods generally for students."
Anecdotal feedback from schools noted that having product available has seen a reduction in absences during students' cycles.