EUGENE, Ore. — City leaders are taking action to help those less fortunate get reusable bags for free.
The announcement hit as the Eugene City Council is set to hold a public hearing on the 5-cent paper bag fee later Monday night.
City Councilor Alan Zelenka, the Northwest Grocers Association, Safeway, Fred Meyer and Food For Lane County are pairing up to help those who can’t afford to buy paper or resuable bags.
Councilor Zelenka says the free bag program will help, but they might have to consider a more permanent solution.
“You only have maybe $31.50 to spend for a week’s worth of groceries, so every penny counts,” said Beverlee Hughes, Food for Lane County Executive Director.
When Councilor Zelenka learned about the burden the fee may place on low-come families, he decided to take action. With the help of the Northwest Grocers Association, Safeway, Fred Meyer and Food For Lane County 10,000 free reusable bags will be in the hands of families in need.
“So when they go to the food pantries in Eugene to get their food boxes they’ll actually get a food bag with a reusable bag in it. So they’ll be able to target where those bags go instead of just generally we’re targeting them the most that can the least afford to go buy one,” Zelenka said.
Right now recipients of WIC, a nutritional program for low-income women, infants and children are already exempt from the fee. But those who receive food stamps are not.
Councilor Zelenka says they’ll be willing to consider changing that Monday night.
“My personal opinion is that we can exempt the low-income, the food stamp people, and deal with that issue and then let this play out for a while longer,” Zelenka said.
He says people will get used to all the changes, but residents disagree.
“Change is hard. It’s tough when things change,” said Eugene resident Robin Seloover.
“As in anything where there’s a change, the inconvenience is noticeable at first,” said Eugene resident Vicki Falsgraf.
“I think it’s a good idea to reverse the fee maybe not just for the poor but all way around just make it across the board no plastic bags,” said Eugene resident Jason Cheatwood.
Councilor Zelenka also mentioned there’s a misconception about where the fee is going. The fee doesn’t go to the city. The fee goes directly back to the retailers to help them offset the price of the paper bags.