According to a 2014 study published by the US Department of Agriculture, 150,000 pounds of food is thrown out of US households every day. At the same time, hunger is still a major problem in the United States. In Boulder, one out of every eight people and one out of every five families face food insecurity. Hayden Dansky, Executive Director of the non-profit Boulder Food Rescue, tells KGNU’s Sarah Dalgleish that the organization aims to tackle both problems at the same time.
“Our mission is to create a more just and less wasteful food system. We collect food that would otherwise be wasted from grocery stores and take it directly to low-income communities across Boulder. The food we focus on is healthy produce that is soon to expire.”
The food is transported from donors to recipients using bikes with large trailers designed for the purpose of holding heavy boxes of produce.
“Often food is getting thrown away blocks from where people need it, so it makes sense to bike it,” Danksy says. “The cool, unintended benefit of having a bike-based organization is now we have a community of volunteers who love biking. It actually increases civic engagement and people’s ability to plug into the organization—I think we have a lot of people who are involved in Boulder Food Rescue who wouldn’t have driven.”
Dansky explains that while food waste and food insecurity are complex issues, there are things each person can do to help contribute to solutions.
“You can do anything from planning your weekly meals to moving food in the back of the fridge to the front. These little things that each individual can do will actually make a really big difference in terms of minimizing food waste in this country.”
To learn more about BFR, you can visit their website www.boulderfoodrescue.org.
Our new friend, Ryan Van Duzer, captures a virtual food rescue shift headed from Sprouts to a No-Cost Grocery program, by bicycle! Learn more about our programs and all those involved on a shift.
A little more about our impact:
In 2018, we redistributed 564,973 pounds of food, which equates to approximately $2,073,451 worth of groceries. This amount would feed 216 families for an entire year or 2,591 families for a month. Our cohort of 150 volunteers re-distributed an average of 1500 pounds of produce 12 times a day from 20 local grocery stores and restaurants and hauled it to 38 recipient agencies, mostly by bicycle.
These recipient sites include shelters, schools and food pantries, as well as 26 No-Cost Grocery Programs at low-income housing sites. This program encourages resident-leaders to distribute food in their own communities and creates participatory systems that bypass barriers in accessing food.
Written by: Ben Robinson
Over the past few years, the term “food sustainability” has become something of a buzzword. The phrase dominates environmental activist circles and is frequently thrown around at farmers’ markets, often without much ensuing explanation. But if we’re serious about making a better future for our food, people, and the environment, we need to unpack what food sustainability means and explain how it relates to our efforts to build a more just and sustainable world.
Food sustainability is about watching what we shop for and eat – but there’s more to it. Cultivation, packaging, and delivery are also critical factors in maintaining a viable system of food production and consumption.
Sustainable farming practices, for example, aim to avoid damaging natural resources and also seek to minimize carbon production throughout the process. Further down the supply chain, grocery stores have the opportunity to facilitate sustainable consumption practices and reduce waste. Some have begun to sell near-expiration produce at discount prices, and larger chains like Trader Joe’s are cutting down on plastic packaging. It’s also important to think about where food comes from before you buy, and independent retailers with plenty of locally sourced fresh fruit and vegetables do some of the thinking for you.
There are also many organizations working hard to increase access to healthy food, broaden sustainable cultivation and consumption practices, and persuade politicians to make important changes. The Fair Food Fund Network invests in entrepreneurs seeking to improve community health through sustainable food production. Organizations like Food Policy Action focus on the explicitly political dimensions of the issue by influencing legislation and educating the public on how Congress votes on matters ranging from feeding the hungry to supporting family farms.
The quest to improve food sustainability comes down to a simple equation without an easy solution. We must strike a balance between economically and environmentally viable production on one hand, while allowing for and incentivizing workable consumption practices on the other.
In the coming posts, I’ll write more about the organizations, lawmakers, and activists working to make Colorado’s food future work for people and the environment. We’ll also learn how the Boulder Food Rescue’s initiatives fit into the larger goal of furthering food sustainability and how you can play your part in making Colorado a better place to eat and live.
Boulder Food Rescue last month notched a new milestone: The nonprofit has redistributed 3 million pounds of food since its founding in 2011.
Volunteers, the majority of them traveling on bikes, ferry perishable food and particularly fresh fruits and vegetables from grocery stores to nonprofits and dozens of sites. At many of those sites, grocery program coordinator volunteers distribute the food to their neighbors. The nonprofit, through the work of nine staffers and about 150 volunteers, now recovers about 1,500 pounds of food per day that would otherwise be wasted.
“It feels pretty amazing,” said executive director Hayden Dansky. “I think it goes to show that we have grown and that we have big impact in this community. It’s worth celebrating for sure.”
Boulder Food Rescue staff believes people have the right to access healthy and nutritious food, regardless of their socioeconomic status, Dansky said. The way the program is structured helps them deliver perishable foods to people in the community.
“That’s our main focus,” Dansky said. “We want to distribute healthy food that’s harder to obtain if you’re living with lower income.”
The nonprofit last year launched a program called Fresh Food Connect, which allows home gardeners to donate produce from their homes and community gardens, too. Although more than 90% of the nonprofit’s donations come from grocers, Dansky said, this program allows them to diversify Boulder Food Rescue sources, invite more community members to participate and secure fresher produce.
“It is smaller scale,” Dansky said. “The reason it’s of interest is because it creates a diversity in terms of sourcing food donations, and it also allows us to decentralize both our food sourcing and our food distribution.”
On Monday, Sunny Shaughnessy and Nirja Meeker were among the volunteers helping to distribute food at Mapleton Mobile Home Park, one the Boulder Food Rescue’s sites. Both are residents who volunteer to help their neighbors access more fresh produce. They pick up the produce from Sprouts and bring it to a central location in the neighborhood. Delivery days are Saturdays and Mondays.
Tables in the community’s wash house on Monday were stacked with heads of lettuce, containers of kale and boxes of bell peppers, strawberries and pears.
“Food is a basic right, as far as I’m concerned,” Meeker said of her decision to volunteer.
Shaughnessy said that, sometimes, residents come ahead of a delivery to sit together, talk and meet new neighbors.
“They wouldn’t have met each other before,” she said. “It’s great.”
Meeker added that, through Boulder Food Rescue, people try new vegetables they would not have otherwise spent money on or felt brave enough to try.
“People are swapping recipes,” she said. “They’re trying to figure out what in the heck that thing is. It’s been a community builder that way, and it’s really added to peoples’ diets as well.”
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