July 1, 2010

Reusable Bags for the City

The D.C. bag tax has been in effect for almost 6 months now, and Bread for the City’s reusable bag campaign has been going on for just as long.

Every nickel counts when you are struggling to pay for basic items like food. By providing free, reusable bags at our food pantry, Bread for the City is helping our clients adjust to this tax. What’s more, clients use these bags to improve their own communities. As one client notes, “I want to keep D.C. and the river clean, but canvas bags cost too much. I’m grateful that ya’ll gave me a bag to use.”

Generally, clients at the Bread for the City Food Program are supportive of the bag tax. One food client, who has been with us for nearly a decade, is grateful for the tax, noting that it will help the environment and our community. “We can’t stand to be polluting. There is no excuse not to have a reusable bag.” To be fair, there are those who oppose the bag tax. Another long time client describes the tax as “unfair to customers” who already pay too much for food and taxes. Despite these differing viewpoints, both clients were ecstatic to receive reusable bags from us.

But Bread for the City itself can’t afford the additional cost of reusable bags - so we need help from the community to make this happen. A couple months ago, we contacted Eco-Bags, a reusable tote company, about a large donation. Ellen Feldman-Ornato (V.P. Strategic Marketing and Fun) informed me that they could not afford a direct donation. Instead, she suggested that their office could collect extra reusable totes. In a few short weeks Eco-bags sent us 175 bags! This simple idea evolved into our bag drive campaign. In the last month, a dozen organizations have signed up, netting us a quick 1,000 reusable bags!

Bag drives are gaining momentum largely because it's such an easy way to help. All it takes it a few all-staff emails and a collection bin, and your organization could collect hundreds of bags for our struggling clients. And you never know who has a secret stash. Last week, the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance read about our bag drives on our blog. They had 100 bags lying around. Today, those very same bags are helping our clients (and keeping our city clean!).

As exciting as this is, we still need more drives to support our thousands of monthly food clients. You can help by setting up a bag drive at work, church, or any other social network. Spread the word! Donate idle bags to the people that need them most!

Please contact Jeffrey Wankel at jwankel@breadforthecity.org for more information.

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