Annually, grocery stores discard 43 billion pounds of food.* Further, 50% of all produce thrown out is still edible.** With over 23.5 million Americans lacking access to fresh produce, either due to high prices or living in a food apartheid, it is imperative that we create local, non-hierarchal, community-led, mutual-aid food justice programs to end this food waste epidemic and ensure food justice for all. How do we do this? Currently, countless organizations across the nation are working to rescue food and redistribute it to those in need. One such organization is the Boulder Food Rescue in Boulder, CO. To garner a better understanding of BFR’s process in food rescue and redistribution, I met up with volunteer courier Leo Barth.
Every weekend, Leo is one of many volunteers across Boulder County who sets out to begin the process of rescuing food before it ends up in grocery store dumpsters. Today, we met just a block away from a Sprouts supermarket before beginning our mission. All across Boulder, BFR has their fleet of bikes and trailers ready for volunteers to pedal to nearby grocery stores. Over the course of one day, a single grocery store may run through their stock two-to-three times and dump any food that may be close to or past the expiration date, or not aesthetically beautiful enough to keep on the shelves. However, grocery stores who have partnered with the BFR will transfer these blemished or “expired” foods on carts for volunteers to come pick up.
Returning to the bike racks, Leo shows me the Food Rescue Robot app – a data collection system used to track pickups, deliveries and pounds of food rescued, among a variety of other data points. As of June 2, 2020, the Food Rescue Robot operates in 33 different cities with 557 recipient organizations. There have been a total of 80,500 pickups and 9.52 million pounds of food rescued by more than 2,000 volunteers. As more food rescue organizations begin to populate in towns and cities across the country, movements toward creating more sustainable systems for food distribution are created. While food rescue programs solve the problem of distribution, in order to fully achieve food justice for all, we need to ensure that the benefits and risks of producing, distributing and consuming food are shared fairly by everyone involved. We need to work toward a cross-class, multicultural movement that engages in a wide variety of work on local, regional, national and global levels. We all have a part in creating the equality and justice we want to see in our world, and the Boulder Food Rescue – among numerous other food rescue organizations – is already hard at work creating programs for the collaboration of people fighting for a more equitable and inclusive food system. To learn more about the Boulder Food Rescue, or if you want to get involved, head over to boulderfoodrescue.org!
PeopleForBikes Content + Design Coordinator
Source: National Resource Defense Council (NRDC)
** Source: The Food Trust
It’s funny in the days of zoom when everyone has their pronouns in their name but not everyone knows what that means. It’s also really relieving in the days of zoom meetings to be explicit about my pronouns. I love my pronouns so much, some days I wish they were tattooed across my forehead, but since I haven’t found the courage to actually follow through with a face-tat quite yet, I’ll settle for a zoom screen sharing my pronouns to coalitions of food access providers. [For basic info on what transgender means, pronouns, misgendering, and why gender matters in the workplace, check out this article].
I’ve come to see no matter how many coalitions or workgroups I’m in, I’m almost always the only trans person in the room (this is not true internally to our organization, only externally). I’ve been curious about this and so I started looking into information about trans-led businesses in the City of Boulder. I have found that there is very little information about how many there are, or if there is any tracking of this in general. I was able to track down some information thanks to the support of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce and City of Boulder. The following is a list of some of that actual survey information and data combined my poor math:
- Boulder has 106,392 residents and about 7,000 employers (which is 5+ employees, and thus all of these numbers will be a little skewed when talking about trans-led businesses which could have less employees).
- 5,300 businesses were recently surveyed by the City, and about 2,600 responded. 7 of these responses were LGBTQ+-owned, which is about 0.2%.
- They added this “LGBTQ+-owned” to the form after they sent me a survey that asked if we were woman-owned, and I asked about being trans-owned, and they added “LBGTQ+-owned.” LGBTQ+ is much broader than Transgender and/or Nonbinary, but I was still like, “cool, the City changed the form based on a tiny email exchange!” Visibility and asking questions matters.
- About 5.6% of our population is LGBTQ+.
- About 7% of people are business owners.
- If 5.6% of the Boulder population are LGBTQ+ people, then we should have about 5,958 queer folks. So, out of these almost six thousand people, if 7% owned their own businesses, to compare to the general population, that would mean there “should be” about 417 LGBTQ+-owned businesses.
- 2,600 respondents of the 7,000 employers is about 37%, so even if we tripled the number of respondents that were LGBT+, hypothetically there may be about 21 LBGTQ+-owned businesses. Not even close to 417.
- There is no formal information or data collection mechanism I’ve found about transgender-owned businesses in Boulder, CO.
- 0.6% of the world is transgender, which would hypothetically be about 638 people in Boulder.
- That means about 45 should be trans-owned employers. We know of two nonprofits that are transgender-owned that qualify in this “employers” category (again 5+ employees), Boulder Food Rescue and Queer Asterisk. There are probably more than we know.
- None of these stats incorporate solo-entrepreneurs or businesses with less than 5 employees, like therapists, yoga teachers, artists, herbalists, spiritual leaders, etc. (and you know most of us are therapists). Thus, there are definitely way more transgender-owned businesses (and LGBTQ+-owned businesses) that fall into this category, but these numbers are also not included in that initial 7,000 number of “employers.” Thus, the numbers still line up, and trans-owned businesses are also hugely underrepresented.
Instead of information on leading businesses, most statistics about trans people are actually about how many of us have been murdered, killed ourselves, almost killed ourselves, struggled with depression or addiction, or don’t have jobs. Most trans people who are murdered are black trans women. I don’t know if I’ve ever met a trans person who doesn’t struggle with some aspect of their mental health, but how could we not? We live in a world that is constantly gaslighting us, and it takes a lot of emotional labor to stay visible.
Being trans-led isn’t just about representation. Specifically, as a nonbinary person (I am both transgender and nonbinary; these are not exclusively tied together or are not always exclusively separate, but I identify as both), I feel like my existence relies on the process of questioning truth, questioning systems, questioning boxes that we’re given to us. I was told there are boys and girls, that there is masculine and feminie. I’m none of these things and never will be. To arrive there, I had to defy all I was ever told and learn how to trust what is real to me. It was the trans community that did this for me.
BFR does just this as well. We push against the rules that were given to us. We acknowledge the harm that the nonprofit industrial complex perpetuates and work to build relationships in a new way. We live in the liminal.
When I got into nonprofit work I naively thought that we would all collaborate because we are trying to dismantle the same systems of oppression, right? What I found is that nonprofits perpetuate just as much harm to one another and to the communities we are trying to help by instituting systems that don’t work for people, creating rules that convey distrust, operating out of scarcity and being in competition with one another. I get it. I’ve lived with a scarcity mentality for most of my life. It’s not just resources and money, but time, love, and care. Sometimes the things we need most really just are scarce, and that can be a terrifying world to live in. And that mentality for work is not working.
If we look at food insecurity over time, we can see that our charitable food system isn’t solving this problem. If we show up the same way that clearly isn’t working, over and over, year after year, nothing is going to change. But charity models aren’t actually seeking to address the issues they say they care to address. They seek to perpetuate their own existence. Being trans doesn’t change this, but being trans means I was forced into a way of living that created a rupture in what society said was true. Trans people force others to question their truth. That can be rattling, but it is the necessary thing that we need in order to pause, reflect, and come up with some other way of existing with one another.
My physical transition has also taught me more of this concept. I’m transitioning to nowhere. I have nowhere to arrive if I have no place to arrive to, and my health and well being is dependent on accepting just that. But for me, I had to transition anyway to find liberation today (disclaimer for folks that don’t know much about this: not all trans people physically transition). Our work looks like this too sometimes. I’ve heard adrienne maree brown talk about creating utopias within distopias. Although we may not be living in a utopia and maybe never will be, we still keep moving and creating the worlds we want to live in by showing up as our fullest most authentic selves with the people we love and trust. My transgender nonbinary queer identity gives me the courage to move through the world in a way that challenges the systems that were given and the “truth” of what is. Deciding to change my body to better reflect the way I want to exist in the world taught me that I could have liberation under my skin even when the world is not liberating. Trans people live in the future. We imagine new ways of being and embody them today.
Many movement spaces say that the personal is political. Our identities, in all of their complexities, shape the way we see the world. They are the glasses that we understand things from. My whiteness, queerness, ability, is all a part of my lens as well. My transness is what enables me to see our work with a different perspective. We don’t have to do things the way they have always been done and in fact we shouldn’t. Instead, we can imagine a new way of existing, somewhere in the future and create that space in the microcosms we have control over today.
We do things differently at BFR. We show up with care, and love, and respect and courage. We build trust internally and externally. We have a huge impact around food justice, but we also love and care about each other in a way that is hard to even show the world. We even say “I love you.” We don’t do things just because we are supposed to, because that’s what other nonprofits do. For example, most food access agencies ask people to fill out poverty-proving requirements to get food. This is a burdensome, exhausting, intrusive, and shame-inducing experience. Instead of asking people to prove their poverty, we could just believe them. I guarantee you, anyone using the charitable food system (which is already barriered, inconvenient and harmful) needs the food. What if we laid down our assumptions and biases and just trusted the people we work with? It seems simple, but it’s just now starting to be a conversation in food access spaces. Nonprofits have either just been doing this forever, or they have demands from funders who have never seen the work on the ground or understand how hard it is to get your basic needs met in a system that isn’t actually designed to support you. What would happen if we just all stopped doing that? We can provide countless examples of ways that we work differently on the ground to honor the dignity, worth, and inherent leadership of individuals.
We don’t operate in a traditional hierarchy. We are creating a model that we are calling “democratized leadership.” What this means is that we create shared decision making processes, respond to feedback as a gift, have autonomy over our positions and work collectively to dismantle hierarchy, share power, and create participatory systems. We have a restorative culture. We talk openly about white supremacy culture and how it shows up in us as individuals and within our organization. We have conflict, for sure, and we talk about it. We try to understand one another. We ask for transparency. I fuck up, a lot, and then my team holds me accountable. I fuck up, and then I apoligize. I try to be transparent, and then I forget. I ask for help. I cry sometimes. I laugh a lot. When tragedies happen, we try to support the people most affected by them. We know they affect all of us differently but we allow space to acknowledge how they affect us. We hold grief circles and make sure space is created if someone needs it, instead of going to work pretending like we don’t live in actively harmful systems that affect our mental health and overall wellbeing everyday.
This is queering nonprofit work. About ⅔ of our staff identify as LGBTQ+ and about ⅓ of our staff identify as transgender or nonbinary or something other than cis. But it’s not necessarily the numbers, but the way we do our work, that’s what’s queer, powerful, weird and liberated. That’s why this is about more than trans-visibility or representation. It’s about creating a new world. It’s about science fiction. It’s about the here and now.
BFR Staff, 2019. Photo by Brad Goodell, Unboxed Photography
Greetings BFR community, our team here at Boulder Food Rescue has been closely monitoring the rapidly changing situation of COVID-19 as it affects communities across the U.S. We’d like to provide you with some updates of actions we’re taking and how you can help us mobilize.
Follow us on social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter) or sign up for our monthly newsletter for more regular updates about our work. We are excited to share our journey with you. We can also be reached by email at [email protected]
February 8, 2021
January 15, 2021
“Don’t let anybody, anybody convince you this is the way the world is and therefore must be. It must be the way it ought to be.” – Toni Morrison
At the onset of COVID-19, and because of our community-led systems, we were already distributing fruits and vegetables directly to people’s doors when they were not leaving their homes. Our No Cost Grocery Programs are community-led food distribution points that operate in the hearts and backyards of program participants. Community-based Grocery Program Coordinators:
- Ensure that their neighbors continue to have food, and many of them even take food to the front doors of those who weren’t able to leave their homes.
- Create their own unique system of no contact door-to-door deliveries with sidewalk chalk marked physically distanced lines, and pre-bagged groceries available at the entrance of community centers and playgrounds.
This decentralized system addresses common barriers in accessing food:
- Distributing food from places that people are already gathered (affordable housing sites, schools and daycares) ameliorates barriers associated with operating hours, transportation, and carrying groceries long distances from bus routes.
- Programs are run by community members, which ameliorates common barriers associated with shame and stigma of accessing food in the charity system.
In the coming years, we will:
- Enhance our leadership development program.
- Advance advocacy engagement.
- Continue to teach workshops on building participatory structures for other nonprofits.
- Continue developing food rescue protocols with grocery stores and local farmers.
- Decrease food waste and greenhouse gases to maintain a world that we can all inhabit in the future.
- Together, we are creating a new world that insists on access to healthy food for all and that edible food is kept out of the landfill.
January 7, 2021
We are so grateful for the generosity and collaboration of our community partners!
Thank you to East Denver Food Hub for their huge donation last month. Through this partnership, they helped us deliver 300 carton of eggs and 148 produce boxes (images above) to 15 No Cost Grocery Programs around Boulder and the surrounding areas!
We also received a donation of cleaning and personal supplies from the Denver chapter of International Society of Pharmaceutical Engineering (below, left).
Boulder Housing Partners invited us to collaborate with Boulder County to deliver a kit of biosafety supplies for COVID. These kits contained a thermometer, hand sanitizer, masks and important information (below, right). They were provided to residents-participants who, by the nature of their work, could be exposed to the coronavirus.
January 1, 2021
Thanks to community members like you, your gifts brought us over our End-of-Year goal to a total of $120,000!!
We distribute over 400,000 pounds of food to 30+ No Cost Grocery Programs every year. What makes BFR special isn’t just what we do, it’s how we do it. It is through relationships with our community members, food donors, partner organizations and financial donors that we are able to collectively work towards a more just and less wasteful food system.
The contribution reports for financial donations will go out by the end of January. If you need yours before then, feel free to reach out to us at [email protected].
December 11, 2020
This is a heartfelt thank you from the Boulder Food Rescue team for contributing during Colorado Gives Day this year. Your generosity surpassed our goal and we raised $45,400 from 365 donations! We are incredibly grateful for you and our community for continuing to show up and support local food justice.
I would like to share with you a documentary that we created, “Voices of Community Food Access”. We had begun filming four of our No-Cost Grocery Programs in February (before COVID-19 hit) and decided to follow-up with them in September to learn more about how each Grocery Program Coordinator had adapted their program.
November 1, 2020
October 1, 2020
Grocery Program feedback from participant
Mary, the Grocery Program Coordinator at Boulder Day Nursery, shared this comment from one of the programs participants:
“Hey Miss Mary! Thanks so much. I was so thrilled with the produce last week. We came home and made a huge salad. The next morning grilled peppers with eggs. We made fajitas that night. The veggies made it through the week 🙂 very much appreciated.”
Feedback like this is why we do the work that we do. The individuals and families who use our No Cost Grocery Programs have supplemented their diets with more fruits and vegetables. We value working with community members to elevate their voices in their food access.
September 12, 2020
BFR in the News
|We are so excited by the amount of news coverage Fresh Food Connect has been receiving! We are so grateful for your growing support.|
In a recent segment of Colorado Matters on CPR, Fresh Food Connect’s CEO Helen Katich spoke about a resurgence in home gardening and connecting gardeners to local organizations like Boulder Food Rescue to support the food systems within their communities.
Click here to listen to the segment.
|CSU Cooperative Extension’s Carol O’Meara spoke to BFR’s Executive Director Hayden Dansky for a Times-Call article about the partnership between BFR and Fresh Food Connect, and the Boulder residents who are working together to improve food access in their communities.|
Click here to read the article.
September 8, 2020
Food Procurement from Local Farms
On Fridays for the rest of the growing season, our program team and courier volunteers will be sorting and redistributing farm fresh food from East Denver Food Hub and Emerald Gardens to eight different communities – six No Cost Grocery Programs at affordable housing sites, 9 to 5, and Mountain Community Resource Center.
Thank you to all of our volunteers and food donors – this decentralized food redistribution system is able to run smoothly because of your dedication and support!
August 26, 2020
No-Cost Grocery Program Participant Testimonial
I wanted to contact you as a recent addition to the North Port Community and beneficiary of the food rescue program. I’ve only been here since late September but have created multiple healthy and nutritious meals from Boulder Food Rescue’s contributions and at Jamie’s recommendation wanted to thank you and let you know how appreciated the work you do is. Food scarcity is more prevalent than most people realize especially for members of marginalized communities. For disabled folks, there are multiple barriers to access including affordability, low mobility, the necessary skills and abilities to prepare, clean up, and even eat food that meets our nutritional needs. For most people, food is inseparable from culture and sufficient access to healthy food nourishes the health and well being of an entire person. I’m currently a Nutrition and Dietetics major at Metro State University in Denver (online) and one of my courses is an intro to cooking class. While I’m an experienced cook with food sensitivities and allergies I’ve been learning quite a bit and have been incorporating food from your program into the assignments and recipes wherever possible. Since I’m unable to safely eat most processed foods, I do my own prep cooking weekly and use a lot of fresh produce. I’m using a considerable amount of these items along with the GF/DF bread and canned beans. What I’m able to procure from the program stretches my budget so that I’m able to purchase more ingredients for recipes improving the flavor and nutritional content of my meals. I’ll be attaching a few pictures of the completed product.
Thank you again for all of your hard work, and I look forward to connecting with you in the future.
Meira Merz (she, her, hers)
August 6, 2020
|“BFR and Sprouts’ generosity fills me with gratitude. As you know, all of us here are at higher risk for Covid because of our age and existing health conditions. Those of us who are lower-income are at increased risk. Their kindness touches me because our American culture seems to be youth-oriented. Through their actions, they’re demonstrating how much they value us seniors as human beings. We are among the fortunate ones.”|
– Grocery Program Coordinator at an affordable housing site for adults and seniors
|COVID-19 Resources and Updates Quarantine ScenariosThe CDC has released a set of quarantine guidelines that describe different COVID-19-related scenarios and how to properly quarantine in response to each scenario. Click here to view the scenarios and guidelines.|
Instructions for People Who Have COVID-19The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) put together instructions for people who are sick and have been diagnosed with COVID-19 – or are suspected to have COVID-19 – to help prevent its spread. Click these links for instructions in English and in Spanish.
Boulder County Testing SitesVisit Boulder County’s COVID-19 testing web page for detailed information about COVID-19 testing criteria, antibody testing, and testing sites in the county and state.
If You Have Been Exposed to COVID-19If you are in Boulder County and have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you are encouraged to contact the Boulder County Health Department at 303-441-1100 for more information on how long to quarantine and getting tested.
|BFR in the News|
The Times-Call recently spoke to BFR Executive Director Hayden Dansky for a piece about how Boulder County non-profit organizations have been impacted by COVID-19 and have responded to their communities’ needs.
Click here to read the article!
July 2, 2020
May 8, 2020
written by: guest blogger, Zoe Larkins
As many of us have read by now, the safety measures being taken to stem the spread of COVID-19 are impacting all aspects of food production and consumption in the US and around the world. Farmers are destroying excess crops, grocery store shelves are unevenly stocked, and food banks are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars over their budgets to try to keep up with increased demand for their inventory. Most concerning of all, of course, is the fact that millions of people are suffering from more extreme food insecurity or experiencing it for the first time.
At a time when the flaws in our food system are being exacerbated and laid bare, Boulder Food Rescue’s mission is more critical than ever. We are proud that our simple, well-honed model for rescuing food from landfills and delivering directly to people in need has us on the front lines of the tragedy caused by COVID-19. In the midst of an almost constant stream of frustrating and heartbreaking news about how this crisis is affecting people and our planet, Boulder Food Rescue has a lot of positive and hopeful things to report. We want to make sure you know how much you, as volunteers and donors, are doing to help mitigate the effects of the pandemic on our community.
An increase in volunteers
We have seen a major uptick in volunteer involvement. Typically, there are between 14 and 18 regular weekly shifts in need of a volunteer. Right now, there is only one regular shift that isn’t accounted for. And this is after new shifts were added to the schedule to accommodate new donations!
A quick response
In the wake of Colorado’s school closures and Governor Polis’s announcement of the statewide stay-at-home order, BFR responded quickly to new donations, making sure as little food as possible was wasted. When restaurants that had to close or reduce their hours got in touch to offer us perishable ingredients they couldn’t use, we coordinated new pick-ups. In support of Boulder Valley School District’s efforts to continue to feed students who participate in the free and reduced-cost lunch program and their families, BFR has helped to deliver the food bags BVSD is putting together to No Cost Grocery Programs.
Fresh food: more important and scarcer than ever
In the past week, there have been new reports about the correlation between general wellness and susceptibility to COVID-19. Especially in children, obesity has been linked to increased risk of contracting the virus. Access to fresh, nutrient-rich produce has always been essential to good health, but it is even more important now.
Right now, BFR’s focus on rescuing produce sets it apart from many organizations that provide food to those in need. Because of the simultaneous decrease in donations and increase in demand that food banks are experiencing, many have reported that they aren’t able to donate fresh produce to the food pantries they supply or the individuals who come to them directly. This means that the produce that BFR volunteers deliver is more valuable than ever.
We are so proud of the work that we are doing, and we are grateful to each of you who has signed up for a shift, donated food, or contributed to our operating costs at this critical moment.
If you’d like to volunteer, please get in touch!
April 2, 2020
We have been doing community-led resiliency work for a long time – the current crisis only exemplifies why this work is so important. As things progress, we expect our work of going into communities to distribute food will be more and more necessary. The infrastructure we have in place already allows us to bring food to people who are immobile and/or cannot afford to stock up on food while in weeks or months of quarantine.
Throughout this pandemic crisis, we have witnessed our diverse and unique community band together in mutual aid. Our team has adapted to the crisis by changing logistics to include higher sanitization and hygiene precautions, as well as no-contact food drops between courier volunteers and grocery program coordinators.
Community leaders create their own food access programs and distribute the food amongst themselves. These people already know who needs the food most, who is most vulnerable, and how to get food to them. Furthermore, these community leaders are ready to change the programming to be as safe as possible. When asked to take on extra responsibilities to bag food ahead of time, in order to have quick and safe distribution, they were ready.
We’ve been in coordination with public health officials and have been encouraged to continue delivering food to our No Cost Grocery Programs. When folks will not be able to go out to access other services, they will be able to access this healthy food in their communities. We care deeply about our community and will continue to serve the most vulnerable populations in the safest way possible.
While our team is monitoring and preparing, we continue to work towards ensuring that all community members feel honored, welcomed, and protected. We have encouraged all community members and BFR volunteers and staff, both in and outside of BFR activities, to practice important health and safety precautions, which is always important to keep us all well. Each individual and each community is able to assess their own risk and notify us of their needs. We have always ensured safe food practices and will continue to do so as we prioritize this crucial work.
Hi BFR Community,
BFR has been doing community-led resiliency work for a long time – the current crisis only exemplifies why community-led healthy food access is so important. As things progress, we expect our work of going into communities to distribute food will be more and more necessary. The infrastructure we have in place already allows us to bring food to people who are immobile and vulnerable. In order to continue getting healthy food to people who need it most, we need your help.
The community work at Boulder Food Rescue has and always will focus on health equity and mutual aid. Now more than ever we are committed to making sure that those with fewer resources are not more at risk. This food justice movement is about inclusiveness and remembering that our community goes beyond the people we directly know. Community includes our elders, our sick and immobile, our wage-workers, our undocumented people, our LGBTQ population, and everyone more vulnerable to the immediate impact of this pandemic. If some folks have access to food, we should all have access to food. Boulder Food Rescue will ensure that happens.
Here are the ways you can support BFR currently:
- Donate Financially: These funds will go directly to supporting new logistics and the work on the front line over the next few months. In order to be effective and strategic (especially as things continue to escalate), we need to raise $45,000. Funds will go to:
- Supplies needed to ensure the safety and hygiene of the communities we serve within our No Cost Grocery Programs
- Logistics coordination and materials needed for rerouting food
- Supporting Grocery Program Coordinators to create new community-driven models that distribute food to individuals homes
- Rapid Response team who covers emergency shifts
- Volunteer: If you are able-bodied and less vulnerable, please help support on an ongoing or one-time basis. We need help with BFR shifts and will do the training online. We also need help delivering sanitization supplies which can be one-time. To volunteer, please email [email protected]
- Donate supplies: These are obviously in short stock, but if you have more than you need, you can donate any of these supplies by dropping them off at a drop box directly at our office, located at 5749 Arapaho Ave, Boulder, CO 80303.
- Hand Sanitizer
- Plastic bags/reusable grocery bags
- Toilet Paper
- If you want to donate canned goods, please drop them directly with our partner who is creating emergency food boxes:
- Harvest of Hope