Boulder Food Rescue – A Catalyst for Change
Boulder Food Rescue (BFR) was conceived in fall of 2011 as a result of University of Colorado research conducted by two of BFR’s five founding members. They discovered that enough food is thrown away or otherwise wasted each day to feed everyone who goes hungry in Boulder and Broomfield Counties. In discussions with grocery stores regarding this finding, they felt that much of their composted food could not be donated to a food bank because the food was “too perishable,” i.e., in the time it would take for the food to be picked up and taken to a warehouse, sorted, then redistributed to shelters and homes, it would have become inedible. Additionally, the area food banks because of policy restrictions could not accept some of the to-be-composted food. Fruits and vegetables not in original packaging are precluded from being distributed by these food banks, which amounted to thousands of pounds of nutritious food being thrown away every day.
The group of five founders includes Caleb Phillips, Becky Higbee, Nora Lecesse, Helen Katich and Hana Dansky. They approached their first grocery store, Ideal Market, who decided to donate right away. They developed systems together that allowed Boulder Food Rescue to provide direct, just-in-time delivery of perishable food, thereby helping to mitigate hunger in Boulder County, increase the access of at-risk populations to nutritious, fresh produce, and ease the food budgets of local nonprofit organizations and individuals. In order to be truly sustainable it was a central principle that food delivery would be done by bicycle and bike trailer whenever possible.
They started by providing a meal in the park under the name of Food Not Bombs. It was quickly discovered that their meal was the healthiest meal in Boulder and virtually every non-profit would want to have access to free and healthy fruits and vegetables. The organization quickly grew from 5 friends to hundreds of volunteers all around the community, picking up food 15 times a day, every day of the week, by bicycle. In Boulder alone, they have redistributed over 850,000 lbs of healthy food.
They discovered that the traditional stereotype of the hungry person is misleading. Food insecurity is hidden in the cracks of the marginalized communities and there isn’t always an easy surface solution. In order to donate healthy food to those who may not access traditional sources, they began donating fruits and vegetables to unique places that do not traditionally handle food, such as low income housing sites, elderly homes, preschools and daycares.
Furthermore, they developed a “build your own food rescue,” package available to all interested people. In just 3 years, 5 other cities have replicated their bicycle-based, direct, just-in-time food recovery model. They continue to support other cities through the development of the peer-learning network they have built under their Food Rescue Alliance program.
Written by Hana Dansky with Boulder Food Rescue, April 2015