From Charity to Solidarity
No Cost Grocery Programs are community-led food distribution points that operate in the community centers and backyards of program users. They address barriers to food access and give communities autonomy and power to create their own food access programing.
Some common barriers to food access:
- Lack of financial resources
- Transportation challenges
- No backup or redundancy
- Limited hours of operation at programs
- Challenges discovering programs
- Red tape and paperwork
- Lack of respect
- Shame and stigma
- Lack of participation or voice
- Valuing Fresh and Healthy Foods
Boulder Food Rescue addresses these barriers by:
- Taking food directly to low-income housing sites, daycares and pre-schools, where people can access food in a place where they are already gathered, reducing or eliminating transportation barriers all together, as well as hours food can be accessed and transportation. challenges.
- No Cost Grocery Programs are run by community members, in ways that work for them. This ameliorates common barriers associated with shame and stigma. Food is distributed by neighbors and friends, dismantling the charitable hierarchy.
- Focusing on healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, that are often more expensive to purchase.
- Coordinating with community members to only deliver food items program users want to receive in quantities they can use, ameliorates barriers around choice and the burden around unwanted food. We train courier volunteers to carry out quality control sorting procedures before delivering food to communities to only deliver food in desirable quality and reduce the burden around poor quality and unwanted food.
- Never having paperwork and other poverty-proving requirements
- Providing a variety of ways for participants to engage, give meaningful input and feedback, in ways that work for them. This includes setting up feedback sessions at every site for casual conversation between BFR staff and participants, creating feedback forms for people to write anonymously (if they choose) at any time, and creating participant-led workshops & affinity groups to troubleshoot common issues.
- Building relationships with participants to create and maintain reciprocal trust. This trust is the foundation for our movement building work.
People often say that the food system is broken, implying we can fix it, but to paraphrase farmer and food justice advocate Karen Washington, the food system is largely functioning how it’s designed to – as one of many systems that function to consolidate power along race, class, and geographical lines. For many people, COVID-19 has been an opportunity to acknowledge that our current safety nets, economic system, and efforts to address race and class-based power and wealth consolidation are insufficient. We need sweeping, long term systems change and serious conversations to correct historical and current resource consolidation (food, land, wealth, political power) in order to meaningfully address food insecurity.
However, it’s also important to acknowledge the fact that communities without easy and abundant access to wealth and resources have been supporting their own health and wellbeing in spite of barriers and extractive and oppressive systems for literally forever, and they’ve been doing that during the pandemic, too. What we aim to do is acknowledge, honor, and leverage that in order to respectfully and successfully transfer resources, control of those resources, and ultimately, power.