- Associated Press - Saturday, August 16, 2014

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) - Every Thursday morning, Boulder Food Rescue volunteer Ana Reyes rides her bicycle to Sprouts Market on Baseline Road, hooks up a waiting bicycle trailer and loads it with sturdy boxes of yellow squash, apples, peaches and other produce.

Then she pedals a few blocks to the nearby Harvest of Hope food pantry and unloads the boxes with the help of pantry volunteers who marvel at the bounty.

Before noon, clients are filling grocery bags with imperfect produce, like a two-legged carrot or a spotty but edible summer squash. A few hours later, the carrot and squash might be in a stir-fry or soup, depending on the recipe that food pantry clients take along with their groceries.

“Source to stomach in less than an hour is the goal,” says Hana Dansky, the elfin co-founder of Boulder Food Rescue, a grassroots project with a projected 2014 budget of $75,000. It began when Dansky was researching a paper for a college class.

She was stunned to learn that up to a quarter of the food grown in the U.S. for human consumption routinely goes to landfills. That’s not a typo. A 2014 U.S. Department of Agriculture study reported that 31 percent of the 430 billion pounds of food at the retail and consumer levels was thrown out, an estimated loss of $161.6 billion.

With fellow students Caleb Phillips, Becky Higbee, Helen Katich and Quinn Lecesse, Dansky documented food waste in northern Colorado. By August 2011, less than a year after Dansky’s research for her environmental justice class, Boulder Food Rescue was up and running. It operates through the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, which safeguards from lawsuits the grocery stores and other food producers that donate food to the needy.

“By the end of our first six months, we were rescuing food from five stores,” Dansky said, “and now we have 28 donation sites, including farmers markets.”

Bicycles are key to Boulder Food Rescue. All of the pickups and drop-offs are done by bike. A Boulder Food Rescue bicycle trailer is parked at nearly all of the 28 donation sites. Once the trailer is attached to the volunteer’s bicycle, it can be loaded with 40 pounds or more, then hauled to a homeless shelter, food bank, soup kitchen, low-income housing apartment or day care facility.

The swift turnaround is what sets Boulder Food Rescue apart from other food recovery projects. It can take days for a food bank warehouse to sort and pack donated produce, which often spoils before it can be used.

Boulder Food Rescue is so successful that it has spawned chapters in Denver and Colorado Springs, and Food Rescue Alliance, the umbrella organization that helps others interested in organizing similar projects. All rely on volunteers. Only the chapter directors receive a salary paid by sponsors, private donations and grants.

“We’re experiencing huge growth,” said Turner Wyatt, executive director of Denver Food Rescue.

“Since we do direct rescue and redistribution, we can take food that needs to be eaten within the next 24 to 48 hours and get it right away to people who need it most. That’s one in six Americans.”

The next step, say Wyatt and Dansky: Teach people to love imperfect produce, further reducing food waste. When the European Union parliament designated 2014 as “the year against food waste,” the French supermarket InterMarché promptly responded with its hugely popular “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables” campaign.

“If an apple is asymmetrical, buy it, because you know it’s edible and nutritious, and it won’t be left to be wasted,” Wyatt said.

“Everywhere from the farm to your refrigerator is part of the food production chain that accounts for that 40 percent of wasted food. It’s our goal for people to understand that it doesn’t matter how pretty the carrot or tomato is. It’s going to taste great and be good for you and fill your tummy. That’s the crucial part.”


Information from: The Denver Post, https://www.denverpost.com

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