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.
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.
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.
“Understanding Food Insecurity”
Written by guest blogger, Brianna Nash
This is one example of food insecurity. In a mid-size, affluent college town like Boulder, many people never stop to consider that their next-door neighbors or fellow students may be unable to put food on the table. Widespread, the stigma that surrounds food insecurity is stapled to very low-income individuals and people experiencing homelessness. If someone needs food they must also be struggling in all other aspects of life, and so goes the unconscious shaming.
When you think about food insecurity what do you consider? What type of person do you think of? Reflect on this for a moment. Take your own situation into account. Have you ever struggled to make ends meet? Have you ever had to buy cheaper food or less food because you didn’t have enough money?
Increasingly, in university towns and cities across the United States, students are struggling to feed themselves. Likely the cause of many factors — such as rising tuition and rising rent — young people are unable to go to school AND pay for food. The same overarching issue has affected thousands of families across the Boulder County area for decades. Along with students, the increasing cost of living makes food inaccessible for many, let alone fresh and healthy food. It’s important to remember, “fresh and healthy” are perceived staples of what it means to live in Boulder. This staple carries with it a strong message of denial that many never actually speak about. It is very difficult to make ends meet for the average person in this part of Colorado.
There are more than 107,000 residents living in Boulder, and nearly 15,000 of them are experiencing some form of food insecurity. A large percentage of this number is children under the age of 18. Throughout the county, one in every eight people encounters food insecurity. It’s easy to assume that all the people sitting in your local Boulder coffee shop are able to go home and make a healthy meal for dinner. Statistically though, at least one or two of them may not be able to afford healthy and nutritious food.
The USDA defines food security as a person being able to “access enough food for an active, healthy life.” This access ranges on a spectrum of high to low food security — high meaning a person is able to afford healthy food at all times, low meaning a person’s lifestyle changes due to lack of food. It is important to remember that food insecurity can come and go in a person’s life. An individual may go for a long time being completely food secure, then dip into low security say, when they lose their job and need to shop at the food bank. Situations in people’s lives are constantly shifting. The way someone feeds themselves is arguably one of the first indications of when a situation is in flux.
It is largely assumed that if someone can’t afford healthy food then they can’t afford a nice phone, or take themselves out for coffee, or get their hair done. While this does stand true for many, the faces of food insecurity are incredibly varied, and cannot be defined in neat boxes. Boulder has one of the highest average meal costs in the nation, coinciding with being one of Colorado’s most expensive counties to live in. For individuals and families that have been completely priced out of the area, food may be the very last thing on their agenda.
Why go out for coffee then, you may ask. In a place like Boulder, one would imagine that to be a genuine question born in curiosity. But questions like that are the reason there is a stigma still surrounding food insecurity. There are a lot of people that simply cannot afford to eat here, but that doesn’t mean they should or have to deny themselves other things in life. Understanding food insecurity begins by taking a few steps back, reserving judgements, and opening up to the much larger picture — everyone needs to live and everyone is going to do it differently.