'Food rescue' group teaches others how to do it
Forty percent of all food produced in the US goes to waste. Boulder (Colo.) Food Rescue picks up food, primarily fresh fruits and vegetables, from local grocers and transports it by bike to groups that serve hungry, homeless, and low-income people.
A group of three impassioned friends, all under the age of 30, started Boulder Food Rescue in August of 2011 with the goal of introducing the problems of waste and want to one another, and with the help of a little logistical muddling on our part, letting them solve each other.Skip to next paragraph
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It’s a shocking fact that 40% of all food produced in the US goes to waste at some point in production. The EPA estimates that every grocery store in the country generates about 1 ton of waste per day, which doesn’t even touch waste in the field or in transport. This (almost inconceivably) occurs at the same time at 1 in 6 Americans are considered “food insecure” and do not have access to adequate and reliable nutrition.
We set about addressing this lunacy in our own community of Boulder, Colo., by starting an organization that picks up food, primarily fresh fruits and veggies, from local grocers and transports it by bike to 50 agencies that serve hungry, homeless, and low-income folks in Boulder. We use 90% bicycle transportation because our food system is incredibly energy intensive, and it makes no sense to put more fossil fuels into trying to rescue food that slips though the cracks.
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Over the past 20 months, Boulder Food Rescue has amassed a volunteer base of 150, saved nearly 325,000 lbs. of fresh, healthy food, and is in the process of becoming a national nonprofit. This last point has been our focus over the past several months as we began to export our bike-powered food rescue model to 5 different cities. Due to some national press coverage, we had people from 25 different cities around the globe from Dublin to San Francisco contact us to ask for support in rescuing food.
In March, with the help of a Shareable seed grant, we decided to focus our work to replicate the program on an inspiring group of people in Fort Collins, Colo. An already close-knit group of friends and community members came to us and asked for some help establishing a food rescue organization with bikes in Fort Collins, which is just an hour and a half by car from Boulder. This initial ask was followed by meetings and long email chains and countless hours of community-based research. We became a primary resource for them, and in our weekly correspondence answered questions about how to best approach community partners, access nonprofit status, and recruit volunteers.
We also wrote and produced bound copies of the “BFR Package Deal,” a step-by-step guide to starting a food rescue, which proved to be invaluable to them as they could refer to it for local and national resources, and feel a greater degree of independence. We encouraged lots of inquiry and communication with organizations that were already working with food in Fort Collins. This led to many conversations with the local food bank, gleaning project, food coop, and network of community gardens about the role a potential food rescue would fill in their operations.