Arnold Food Pantry moves to eliminate use of plastic bags

ARNOLD, Mo. – A local food pantry is looking to make a small change in hopes of making a big impact on the environment.

The Arnold Food Pantry has been making a difference for the people of Jefferson County since 1983. Soon, it will also make a difference for the planet.

"When I took over the position earlier in the year, I did some math and figured out we were using anywhere from 60,000 to 80,000 plastic bags," said Ed Fitzhenry, executive director for the Arnold Food Pantry.

Some cities across the U.S. have banned plastic bags. However, Missouri lawmakers are considering banning local governments from implementing bans on single-use plastics.

The Arnold Food Pantry wanted to do its part to reduce the number of plastic bags it was using, Fitzhenry said. He reached out to contacts at Comprehensive Benefits and Humana about partnering to create a reusable bag.

Before he knew it, Fitzhenry said his contacts responded in a big way. They had 10,000 reusable bags made.

Fitzhenry said the Arnold Food Pantry will keep about 2,000 and share the rest with other area food pantries.

The reusable bags will not eliminate the plastic bags, but Fitzhenry said he hopes they will reduce the number of plastic bags used at the food pantry each year by at least half.

The Arnold Food Pantry receives no state or federal funding. It relies on donations and fundraisers, and money made through sales at its thrift store.

Fitzhenry said they get food from the St. Louis Food Bank, through Operation Food Search, and through community food drives. The Arnold Food pantry serves 500-600 families each month.

"We've estimated that the amount of food, let's say for one person over two weeks, is probably $600 to $700 in value," Fitzhenry said.

Fitzhenry said the Arnold Food Pantry served 13,000 individuals last year and gave out more than $2.6 million in food. They are on track to help just as many people this year.

Current and new clients will get the reusable bags beginning in November. They will need to bring the bags with them for each future visit.

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