August 19, 2010

Bags, Bags and More Bags!

At the start of the summer, we told you about our reusable bag drive. As summer draws to a close, BFC is pleased to report we have received nearly 20,000 reusable bags. Thank you to all the donors (including WilmerHale, Eco-Bags , and Sasha Bruce Youthwork) who have made this possible!

The numbers are even more impressive than it may seem at first glance. Our food packages are pretty heavy (at least three complete days’ worth), so we triple-bag each parcel to ensure our clients can get it all home safely. That means each reusable bag replaces two plastic bags and a paper bag, which means that this reusable bag drive has already saved 40,000 plastic bags and 20,000 paper bags in our pantries alone. 

As we’ve said before, this is not just good for the environment -- it’s also a real help to our clients, who are already over-budget and overwhelmed. For people with a monthly food budget of well under $100, the 5¢-per-bag Bag Tax  takes a significant toll at the check-out line.

One thing we haven’t talked about yet is how these reusable bags also benefit Bread for the City. Plastic bags cost us 5¢ a piece, and paper bags cost 8¢, so these reusable bags save us 18¢ per client. with your help, BFC has already saved $3,600. That is $3,600 left in our food budget to spend on nutritious food for our clients.

All this benefit compounds over time, too. We’re already seeing clients bringing bags back for this month’s food -- we estimate that on any given day, 25% of our pantries’ clients bring back reusable bags. We did take some measures to ensure a high rate of return: since we hand out only one reusable bag per client, we remind clients that if they bring their reusable bags back, for re-use, they can receive an extra pound of fruits and vegetables of their choosing. (Thanks to our Glean for the City project, this additional outlay of fresh produce costs us literally nothing.)

One mother at our Southeast pantry told me, “I like the variety of vegetables. My kids love veggies and now ... we can get the good food we can’t afford at the grocery store from Bread for the City.”

So this reinforces our Nutrition Initiative, which encourages the consumption of more produce and less meat -- which, in turn, leads to a healthier planet, bringing us full circle to the original impetus behind the push for reusable bags!

On that note: our search for reusable bags is never over. Already, 15 organizations, churches, law firms have donated reusable bags to our pantry, no to mention the generous individual contributions. You can help too by organizing a reusable bag drive at work or in your community. Or just clean out your own pantry and send them our way! Contact Jeffrey Wankel at for details.

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