By Fallon Forbush
People throughout Northern Virginia are signing up to be a part of the “cool, green bag” movement.
Bob Schnapp was inspired in November 2014 when he read an article that was published in the Wall Street Journal about Jonathan Trivers and his charity in Paradise, Calif. Trivers’ charity, A Simple Gesture, provided 500,000 pounds of free groceries to local food pantries in three years by asking people to fill cool, green bags with nonperishable food items.
“The beauty of this is that it keeps the pantries stocked throughout the year and not just during the holidays.” —Diana Katz, a spokesperson, Giving Circle of HOPE
”I wanted to do something about hunger because the numbers are staggering,” says Schnapp, a 40-year resident of Reston.
After calling Trivers and getting advice, Schnapp created A Simple Gesture, Reston in June 2015, which donates food to the LINK food pantry in Herndon and the Cornerstones food pantry in Reston
He started by recruiting 20 families within his Jewish congregation to participate at the Shoreshim in Reston. The congregation agreed to buy 250 cool, green bags.
It grew from there.
“The idea is to make giving as simple as possible,” Schnapp says. “All they have to do, outside of buying the food, is literally placing the bag outside of their door at 8:30 in the morning the first Saturday of every other month. That’s all the work they have to do.”
THE GROUP has 32 drivers who volunteer to pick up the bags and deliver them to the food pantries.
By word of mouth, more and more people signed up.
Now in December, there are 400 participants who fill their bags. This month alone, they collected 9,380 pounds of nonperishable food items.
Since the last collection day on Dec. 3, more than 30 new people have already signed up to join in.
“There are 35 cities across the country that are doing this,” says Schnapp. None of the groups are affiliated, but they are all using the same logo: “A Simple Gesture.”
Catherine Hudgins, who represents the Hunter Mill District on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, is on board.
“That sounds easy,” Hudgins says. “I can put my bag outside the door.”
She was not surprised that the community found a way to help neighbors in need.
“Cornerstones empties quickly,” she says. “It really makes a difference.”
In total, 41,138 pounds of nonperishable food items have been donated through the cool, green bags since the group started.
There has been so much interest that Schnapp asked the Giving Circle of HOPE for help.
A giving circle is a form of participatory philanthropy where groups of individuals donate their own money to a pooled fund and decide together which charities receive grants.
“We found that it was such a simple, no-brainer kind of thing to make people give food,” says Diana Katz, who is a spokesperson of the Giving Circle of HOPE.
Katz also volunteers to drive to pick up bags on collection days to deliver to the Cornerstones food pantry.
Katz’s organization could not provide funding, but she was able to connect Schnapp to another donor who was willing to help.
Now there are more bags and more room to grow.
“The beauty of this is that it keeps the pantries stocked throughout the year and not just during the holidays,” Katz says.
THOSE WHO WANT to get involved by filling bags, driving routes or sorting food can sign up by going to www.coolgreenbag.org. Those who sign up will have a bag delivered to their house and will receive a reminder email when the pick-up date is near. A food list of suggested donations is also printed on a tag of all the bags.
The U.S. Tennis Association, located in Isaac Newton Square, fills 20 bags every two months and delivers them to the Cornerstone’s Reston Pantry. Other businesses can participate by emailing Schnapp at Bob@CoolGreenBag.org.
Published December 14, 2016