December 16, 2011

20-50 Percent of Food Is Thrown Away Annually in U.S.

                            Photo: Justin Ritchie Photo: Meredith Potter

It’s 22 degrees in Boulder, Colorado and Helen Katich is biking up 13th Street.

Behind her, she pulls 60 pounds of rescued food in a trailer. Her breath is visible against the night sky and traffic lights reflect off the bright orange vest she wears that says, “Boulder Food Rescue.”

Katich, a junior at University of Colorado, has been an intern with Boulder Food Rescue (BFR) since the beginning. Every Thursday evening, she picks up food from Ideal Market that would otherwise be thrown out, and delivers it to a nearby church where it is fed to the hungry.

Last week this three and a half month-old non-profit organization celebrated reaching 12,000 pounds of rescued food.

Run by three board members, two interns and about 20 volunteers, BFR coordinates pick-ups and deliveries twice a day, seven days a week. The donations come from several businesses including, Alfalfas, Ideal Market, Spruce Confections and Breadworks. BFR then redistributes this food to 15 different agencies and charities in the area—and they do it 72 percent of the time by bicycle.

Photo: Boulder Food Rescue

Co-founder Hana Dansky says, “We have an obvious problem in our food system but nobody was doing anything about it. So with our shared passion for people, food and the environment we came together to create one solution.”

Depending on whom you ask, Americans throw away 25-50 percent of their food annually and yet, one in six people are going hungry every day. The issue doesn’t end there. Food that is deposited into landfills creates methane, the ninth-largest source of greenhouse gas.

“We feed our landfills better than we feed our people,” says Dansky.

Most of us don’t think about food waste because we don’t see it, but the issue is deep-rooted. It permeates every city, and speaks to worldwide issues on energy, consumption, resource management and efficiency.

Photo: beacomsensei

Food goes through a very hypercritical review process in grocery stores. Since people are spending money on it, they expect it to be perfect. This means that food with just the smallest of flaws gets thrown out. “If people judged each other by the way we judge food, then everyone would be thrown into the dumpster,” remarks Katich.

The three founders—Caleb Phillips, Becky Higbee and Hana Dansky—originally worked together at Food Not Bombs, but found it was lacking in certain areas. With inconsistent leadership and a sometimes shaky reputation of unorganized, dumpster diving hippies, it wasn’t always serving its community as well as it could, explains Phillips.

On the other end of food rescue groups are bigger organizations like Community Food Share that deal with only non-perishable food. Because these leading food banks serve such big populations, it is difficult for them to provide the most fresh and nutritious foods.

“I spent a big chunk of my childhood in shelters in Portland, Oregon and I have very vivid memories of what shelter food is like and how awful it can be,” says Phillips. “This isn’t the fault of the hardworking cooks and volunteers, but simply a lack of access to fresh and healthful ingredients.”

The BFR team from left to right: Becky Higbee, Helen Katich, Caleb Phillips, Hana Dansky, Nora Leccese. Photo: Alexandra Bibbo

BFR takes the middle ground and acts to “fill the gap” left by these other organizations, focusing on fresh, organic foods, which they transport directly to the site of preparation and consumption.

“The food we rescue is amazing, says Dansky, “We get fresh fruits and vegetables that create a healthy variety for the people eating it. How you feed your body affects your mentality and emotions. When you eat good healthy foods, not only is your body healthier, but your mind and heart are too.”

Although BFR is a young organization, they are organized, passionate and intelligent—and their visions go beyond the short term. With some of their food recipients already saturated, Phillips says he hopes to expand to schools and assisted living communities.

“There are plenty of more hungry people just over in Longmont,” he adds. “Our five year plan is to take on an educational mission and to try to package our model” for other communities to use.

 Find out more about BFR at www.boulderfoodrescue.org.

If you are interested in volunteering with BFR, e-mail [email protected] or call 720-4455-BFR.

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