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A Tampa event to distribute hygiene products highlighted environment and health disparities

Woman wearing a printed coral-colored dress, holding a baby boy in a diaper with her arm around her young son wearing a plaid shirt and smiling.
Jessica Meszaros
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WUSF Public Media
Erica Diniz de Oliveira with her sons outside of the Tampa Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church under the Chispa Florida tent.

Environmental justice advocates were circulating a petition for counties across Florida to use electric school buses at a weekend event to distribute free menstrual products and diapers in Tampa.

Advocates for under-served communities of color hosted the first Banco de Mujeres in Tampa this past weekend. The event, which has had success in Kissimmee, provided free hygiene products.

About 200 families came through the tents outside of the Tampa Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church when services ended Saturday afternoon.

Chispa Florida, an environmental justice organization, distributed eco-friendly and non-toxic menstrual products, along with diapers for babies and adults, and sanitizing wipes.

“We know we are living in an era where everything is so expensive,” said Krizia Lopez Arce, Chispa Florida’s communications manager based in Central Florida. “It's very important for us that the women have access to hygiene products and that's why we're here.”

Close-up of products on a table: Prevail Daily Underwear package on the left, a small box of natracare organic cotton tampons in the middle, and a medium box of 100% organic cotton core tampons.
Jessica Meszaros
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WUSF Public Media
Chispa Florida offered non-toxic and sustainable hygiene products, including the reusable menstrual cup (not pictured).

Erica Diniz de Oliveira picked up two packages of diapers, which she said will last a couple weeks for her one-year-old son.

She moved to Tampa from Brazil three years ago and said, in translated Portuguese, that prices have been increasing since her arrival.

“Either way, it's expensive but especially for the newly immigrated,” she said, referencing the large Brazilian community in Tampa. “The exchange rate and currency makes it very difficult and they are also unemployed.”

Oliveira also has a 7-year-old son, and learned something new during Chispa Florida’s talk about diesel versus electric school buses.

Members of the organization were collecting petition signatures to bring clean buses to Hillsborough, Orange, Osceola, Volusia, Palm Beach and Miami Dade counties.

Getulio Gonzalez-Mulattieri, with Chispa Florida based in Tampa, said he’s been campaigning for clean buses in Hillsborough for about a year.

He said the county actually purchased 218 vehicles, but they are not operating due to a lack of charging stations.

"We want to get more and we want to make sure that Latino and Black communities also have access to those electric buses,” he said. “The Latino and Black community suffer the most from poor air quality. They bear the brunt of environmental injustice and climate change."

About 50 people signed the petition on Saturday. The total number of signatures from across the state was unavailable the day of the event.

Green tent that says, "www.chispaflorida.org," on the left side with a couple people looking at their phones behind the table. To the right, a bigger tent is shading multiple sitting people.
Jessica Meszaros
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WUSF Public Media

Back on May 20th, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced its historic billion-dollar Clean School Bus Program.

The agency said on its website that through funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the program will provide $5 billion over the next five years to replace existing school buses with zero-emission and low-emission models.

The EPA is offering $500 million through the 2022 Clean School Bus Rebates for zero-emission and low-emission school bus rebates as the first funding opportunity, and the application process is open.

"Electric school buses are the only zero-emission alternative to diesel school buses, which emit toxic pollutants that harm the health of children and can even impact their academic performance,” said Maria Revelles, Program Director of Chispa Florida, in a press release.

“We are thrilled to see this federal funding opportunity arrive, and we are urging all Florida School Districts to apply for the Clean School Bus Program to bring electric school buses to our state. We can’t lose this opportunity to clean up the air for our communities.”

Since 2012, I’ve been a voice on public radio stations across Florida - in Miami, Fort Myers, and now Tampa.