Some stores have banned reusable bags over fears of COVID-19 spread.
While many retailers have discouraged shoppers from bringing reusable bags into stores during the COVD-19 outbreak, Natural Grocers is sticking with a policy that permits their use and says it has enhanced procedures to ensure they are clean and safe.
The pandemic has sparked worries among consumers and some food retail chains that reusable shopping bags transmit the COVID-19 virus more efficiently than do plastic or paper bags. For instance, Hy-Vee Inc. banned the use of reusable bags in March as those concerns built. But Natural Grocers, in explaining its decision to stick with the bags and encourage their ongoing use, pointed out that neither the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nor the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has indicated that reusable bags present such a threat.
To help sustain and perhaps even increase the popularity of reusable bags in the coming weeks and months, Natural Grocers — which goes by the formal name Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage Inc. — said it will donate $1.00 to local food banks for every Ladybug Zip Pouch reusable bag (retail $1.99) sold throughout the month of April.
Reusable bags fits within the Natural Grocers vision of itself as an operator of sustainable retail, and the chain is taking other steps to make sure its decision produces positive results.
“During the coronavirus pandemic, customers may continue to bring in reusable bags when they shop at Natural Grocers,” the company said. “Protective measures have been put in place to reduce human-to-human contact and maintain a sanitary environment, including asking customers to bag their own groceries and cleaning cashier stands anytime a customer places personal property on the stand, whether it be a reusable bag, a purse, a lunch box or a wallet.”
Natural Grocers ended its use of single use shopping bags at the register in 2009 and has since donated 5 cents to local food banks for every time a customer uses a reusable bag. "This year we eliminated single use plastic bags in the 100% organic produce section where we now offer compostable biobags and brown paper bags instead," a company spokesperson said.To date, Natural Grocers says it has prevented an estimated 360 million bags from ending up in landfills and has donated over $1.3 million to local food banks, which has provided more than 4 million meals to those in need.
As Natural Grocers reaffirms its commitment to reusable grocery bags, it has also boosted its food relief efforts during the pandemic. The company said it would donate more than $50,000 in gift cards to local food banks, a move that also honors Earth Day, which is April 22. The Kroger Co. and other food retailers across the country are stepping up their pandemic charitable efforts, along with other programs that involve special shopping hours for senior citizens, healthcare workers and first responders, and free shopping trips for some of those consumers segments.
Founded in Colorado in 1955, Lakewood, Colo.-based Natural Grocers has more than 3,500 employees and operates 157 stores in 20 states: Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.