Mia Mirante, 16, volunteers for the 2022 Point-in-Time count at the Manteca Warming Center in Manteca. (Harika Maddala/Bay City News)

On Tuesday morning in Manteca, 16-year-old high school student Mia Mirante walked back and forth in the cold fog, helping to load backpacks containing feminine hygiene bags into a van to be distributed to unsheltered women at the 2022 Point-in-Time count.

The biennial count, mandated in every state, is an attempt to count all of the unsheltered and sheltered homeless people in order to determine how much each county will receive in state and federal funding to address homelessness.

Mirante saw a need to help homeless women in her community after realizing how much menstrual products cost monthly for women.

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According to a period product cost calculator created by Polish medical doctor Dominika Miszewska and Julia Zulawinska, a biotechnology student, the average woman spends $9 to $10 buying pads or tampons a month, depending on the country.

Karen Mirante, mother of Mia Mirante, unloads hygiene bags from a van to distribute to homeless women during the Point-in-Time count at the Manteca City Hall in Manteca. (Harika Maddala/Bay City News)

Mirante said one day she was walking down the feminine hygiene product aisle in her local Target when she suddenly thought, “These are so expensive … how do people in general afford this, especially homeless women?”

That day, she took on the task of helping women in her community by creating approximately 75 to 80 feminine hygiene bags that they could use during their menstrual cycle.

The Ziploc bags included six pads, six tampons, wet wipes and Advil, which the student paid out of pocket. Also included in the bags were donated hand sanitizers.

“I just want to make a difference in any way I can,” Mirante said.

In the 2019 Point-in-Time count, data indicated that in San Joaquin County there were 2,629 homeless people, with 1,558 being unsheltered, and 14% of them residing in Manteca.

This work was produced in partnership with Starling Lab for Data Integrity. To read more about this project and our work to advance photo authentication technology and its applications in journalism, click here.

Victoria Franco is a Stockton-based reporter covering the diverse news around the Central Valley as part of the Report for America program. As a Stockton native, Franco is proud to cover stories within her community and report a variety of coverage. She is a San Jose State University alumna with a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism. In her collegiate years she was Managing Editor for the Spartan Daily. From her time at the Spartan Daily she helped lead her staff to California College Media Awards and a General Excellence first place. Victoria encourages readers to email her story tips and ideas at victoria.franco@baycitynews.com.