How It Works

Pick Ups: We work with area businesses to identify food that would otherwise be thrown away, which can be diverted from the compost or landfill. We focus on fresh produce, which may be blemished or for some reason needs to go out for new food to be stocked. This sort of soon-to-expire produce cannot be rescued by larger food banks that use warehouses. We also act as an on-call food rescue organization and pick up unexpected overstocks and overages.

Our donors load this food into boxes which are kept at their store. Then they put those boxes aside in a place that works for them. Our volunteers are the ones to sort through it for them, making it easier for employees to donate.

Distribution: Once a day at each donor site, one of our volunteers rolls up with their bike, loads the food into a bike trailer and hauls it directly to a recipient site that is scheduled to receive it. We call this “direct just-in-time” food rescue, because it doesn’t require any storage or sorting and the food can be used immediately. In order to prove that such a system can also be sustainable, we do all of the food rescue by bike (excepting cases of extreme weather, extremely large food rescue events, or illness).

Recipients and Participatory Models: The food gets delivered to one of the ~40 recipient sites we partner with and is typically used within 24-48 hours. We provide food to day shelters and food pantries that serve the homeless and low-income folk, but more importantly, we work with individuals who struggle with food insecurity themselves.

We work with community leaders at low income senior housing sites, individual housing sites and family housing sites as well as after-school programs and pre-schools. This participatory approach enables community leaders to really be at the forefront of actualizing their own food security. Individuals run what we call “Grocery Programs” to set up a food-pantry type situation in their own community rooms, but they are in charge of how, when, and where and we just support them on the back end by building strong relationships with individuals to have the most say in how their programs should run.

We also provide food to special events for charities on occasion and provide some food to pay-what-you-can meals, and low income housing cooperatives.


We are sometimes asked about liability issues surrounding food donations. In order to thoroughly answer this question, our volunteer legal research team put together a brief (but exhaustive) law review on the topic:

A federal law exists which protects donors of food from liability: the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. Passed in 1996, this law states that an individual or company “shall not be subject to civil or criminal liability arising from the nature, age, packaging, or condition of apparently wholesome food or an apparently fit grocery product donate[d] in good faith to a nonprofit organization for ultimate distribution to needy individuals” except in cases of “gross negligence or intentional misconduct” [1]. The Bill Emerson Act hasn’t been tested in court yet, i.e., there isn’t relevant case law in any state. However, it is a broadly written federal bill and offers strong protection for good faith donors.

There are several good summaries online about the bill & its implications:

There is also a Colorado state law pertaining to food donation, C.R.S. §§ 13-21-113, which offers more explicit, but narrower protection for food donors [2]. It states:

No farmer, retail food establishment, or processor, distributor, wholesaler, or retailer of food who donates items of food to a nonprofit organization for use or distribution in providing assistance to needy or poor persons nor any nonprofit organization in receipt of such gleaned or donated food who transfers said food to another nonprofit organization for use or distribution in providing assistance to needy or poor persons shall be liable for damages in any civil action or subject to prosecution in any criminal proceeding resulting from the nature, age, condition, or packaging of such donated foods; except that this exemption shall not apply to the willful, wanton, or reckless acts of donors which result in injury to recipients of such donated foods.

It, too, has yet to be tested in court. However, as the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act offers broader protection from liability, it would preempt the Colorado state law (see [3]).


[1] Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. Pub. L. No. 104-210, 110 Stat. 3011 (1996)
[2] Colorado Revised Statutes/Colorado Revised Statutes/TITLE 13 COURTS AND COURT PROCEDURE/DAMAGES/Damages/ARTICLE 21 DAMAGES/PART 1 GENERAL PROVISIONS/13-21-113. Donation of items of food – exemption from civil and criminal liability.
[3] Preemptive effect of the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act: Memorandum for James S. Gilliland, General Counsel, Department of Agriculture. March 10, 1997.