City of Boulder Food Waste Audit: Part 1


Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 1.11.16 PMBy: Devon Reynolds

If you’re reading this blog, you may already know about food waste. Estimates put between 30 and 50 percent of all food produced annually in the US into the trash, whether it rots in the fields or at the bottom of your fridge. Meanwhile, 14% of households in the US are food insecure.

Boulder Food Rescue (BFR) has been connecting these dots here on the Front Range, delivering food that would otherwise be thrown away by grocery stores and restaurants to communities that have organized its distribution to their food-insecure members. With organizations like BFR and Community Food Share working on food recovery in the city, Boulder is looking to buck the trend and get food going into mouths instead of dumps. The question remains: how much farther do we have to go?

The Boulder Food Rescue, in collaboration with researchers at CU Boulder, recently released the findings from their study, the City of Boulder Food Waste Audit in order to answer that question. The study assesses the impact of current food recovery operations in Boulder; perceptions of food donation among city grocery stores, restaurants, and cafés; and the potential for rerouting more food away from the trash and onto the table.

The Food Waste Audit shows that BFR recovered over 300,000 pounds of food in 2014, an amount that has only grown since that year. That sounds like a big number, but the audit findings show that the grocery stores and restaurants not yet collaborating with BFR could more than quadruple it. The study found that the six non-participating grocery store could add more than 210,000 pounds of food to recovery efforts, and non-participating restaurants could add up to 1.2 million pounds.

According to the Food Waste Audit, “…even with conservative estimates, there is likely more than enough good food being discarded in Boulder and Broomfield counties to meet the caloric needs of all of the food-insecure individuals in the area.” Now that is a powerful incentive for area food retailers to get on board with BFR.

Aside from non-participation, the Food Waste Audit survey of food retail employees showed that even participating stores and restaurants might be able to donate more food. Grocery store employees expressed concern about liability issues related to the quality of the food being donated, while restaurant employees said that most waste was the result of consumer choices. These two issues prevent perfectly good food from making it into BFR ’s bike trailers—but that is a topic for our next foray into the Food Waste Audit.

Come back soon to the BFR blog for more info on the Food Waste Audit, or get your very own copy today.  Don’t forget, we’re always looking for your help, so if you’d like to lend a hand, click here to donate or get involved. Until next time!

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