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'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.

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Once the organizers were confident that a bike-powered food rescue was timely and appropriate for Fort Collins, we together set about creating the beginnings of an organization: bylaws, a board of directors, and a mission statement. One Fort Collins organizer said of this initial stage, “It is a genuinely beautiful act of strength to get something like this going, and I can’t wait to be a part of this beginning.”

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The Fort Collins Food Rescue crew was filled with enthusiasm and energy, but had the same problem we did at our inception: the issue of how to become a nonprofit, since the project relies on tax deductible donations. We at Boulder Food Rescue were working hard to become nationally tax exempt so that we might extend out 501c3 status to Fort Collins and several other cities, but had run into frustrating road blocks internally and with the IRS.

In a display of resourcefulness, one of the Fort Collins organizers, Dana Guber, suggested that food rescue in Fort Collins be housed under the nonprofit status of the Growing Project, a local organization that promotes the value of a strong, diverse, and just local food system for all residents of northern Colorado through direct agricultural experiences, education, and advocacy.

The group carefully weighed their options, and decided that the best way to serve their community and rescue food was to become a project of the Growing Project. They adopted the name Food Finders and completed their first pickup by bicycle last week, which was a whole bunch of fresh, healthy greens!

The past few months have been an intense learning process for both Boulder Food Rescue and the newly christened Food Finders. We learned to be an incubator for a fledgling organization and help it create a vision for the future. We have gained a greater understanding that federal paperwork doesn’t happen on our schedule and learned how we can balance sharing our model and providing support with granting full autonomy to the people who use it.

The folks in Fort Collins have learned a great deal about patience and persistence in starting a new project, and have experienced sweet success as a result of their work. A Fort Collins organizer reflected: “We are capable of preventing food waste and, more universally, spreading knowledge to strengthen the community. Being a part of Fort Collins Food Rescue has given me an empowerment that I don’t feel is leaving any time soon.”

Learn more about Boulder Food Rescue and how to start your own city food rescue program.

This article was originally published by Shareable, a nonprofit online magazine that tells the story of how sharing can promote the common good.

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