- Associated Press - Thursday, August 20, 2015

JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) - Inside the headquarters of Hole Food Rescue a chalkboard lists the organization’s five core values.

“We show up; we have fun; we value our relationships; we hold ourselves to high standards; we go the extra mile.”

That extra mile is usually traveled on a bicycle.

While every day at Hole Food Rescue is different, every day involves many runs to pick up food from one of the organization’s 13 donors and then drop-offs at one of the 18 organizations it serves. Most of the food is transported on a trailer attached to a bicycle.

Volunteers like David Kiehn spend mornings at the Hole Food Rescue hub. He loads crates of food onto the back of his bicycle and hauls them to the Senior Center of Jackson Hole in time for lunch.

Hole Food Rescue celebrated its second anniversary in June. While its business is growing and evolving, its mission is steadfast.

“It’s simple, really,” volunteer Russell Scott said. “We take food that would have been wasted, and put it to use.”

It started when founder and executive director Ali Dunford was dumpster-diving in local grocers’ trash bins and was taken aback by the amount of edible food being thrown away.

“I was totally appalled,” Dunford said. “Why are we throwing this food away?”

Grocery stores get rid of food based on its expiration or “sell by” date, but Dunford explained that those dates are produced by food manufacturers based on quality, not safety. That means that much of the food that grocery stores cycle through is still edible long after it is discarded.

Hole Food Rescue takes those edible items and redistributes them to organizations that serve people who are food insecure, meaning they can’t afford enough nutritious food. Cycling 20,000 pounds of food a month takes a lot of labor. Hole Food Rescue has more than 50 volunteers and has just hired its first two staff members, or, rather, created positions for the founder and her associate director, Jeske Grave.

Grave and Dunford spend most of their time managing volunteers and writing grants for current and new projects. Their newest and biggest project idea is an “excess food” map - Dunford is careful to distinguish “excess food” from “food waste” - that will detail all of the excess food sites in the Jackson area. Hole Food Rescue wants to work with every business in the Jackson area that sells or produces food to try to reduce and redistribute items that would otherwise go to waste.

“It’s going to be huge,” Dunford said.

When they’re not writing grants or sorting food, Dunford and Grave are likely preserving produce to make jams and other goods to sell at the People’s Market.

“Preserving is a lot of work,” Grave said.

Still, selling jams at the People’s Market is an important opportunity for the organization to connect with the community.

“It’s not about the revenue,” Grave said. “It’s a really big awareness piece.”

It’s also a chance to use food before it has to be thrown away.

Hot pepper jam is their most popular product.

Hole Food Rescue has come a long way in its short two years of existence, but its progress has not been without obstacles. Biking may be the primary mode of transportation, but the organization is still working to acquire bikes of its own. Dunford and Grave also want to raise awareness within their network of food providers to ensure that all of the food they pick up is organized and edible. Language barriers with business employees and lack of engagement are among the challenges they face at pickup sites, but Grave said they want everyone involved to feel empowered to help.

“We do a lot of good,” Scott said as he sorted through a box of produce he had just picked up. “It’s a good example of what can happen with everybody pitching in together. It makes a big difference.”


Information from: Jackson Hole (Wyo.) News And Guide, https://www.jhnewsandguide.com

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