The system is designed to reach the most people and leave the smallest environmental footprint.
It is a popular practice among parents of picky-eating kids to remind them that, “there are hungry children in other countries who would be happy to eat that food.” While this is most likely true, there are also most likely hungry children in your city right now who would be equally happy to eat fresh produce. Unfortunately, in the city of Denver, it is estimated that 30 to 50 percent of perishable food will see a landfill before it ever reaches a plate.
This is the statistic that the folks at Denver Food Rescue are trying to change with a direct distribution program which takes food from donors and immediately brings them to a family in need. By bypassing the middle-man — in this case a storage facility that would organize and distribute donations — DFR is able to bring fresh groceries to families before they spoil. This means less unnecessary waste in the landfills and more healthy food for low-income homes.
DFR began their work after a close examination of the city’s food redistribution system, which they said was full of gaps. They noticed that food pantries can only reach small portions of their community. In addition they identified many reasons for which those in need may decide not to go to a food pantry, barriers such as stigma, public transportation, ID requirements, language and cultural differences, and below par foods.
They also noticed that most full-service grocery stores were located in high income areas, while the low-income streets were more likely to be dotted with fast food joints. A poor diet of low-quality food can lead to a variety of health concerns and diet-related illness.
As a No Cost Grocery Program, all of the DFR’s services are free of charge and conducted by volunteers. In order to ensure that the needs of the communities are heard and met, DFR recruited one community leader from each neighborhood in the program to join the Denver Food Rescue Board of Directors, which puts the power in the hands of the very people they serve.
If this program didn’t seem ambitious enough, food deliverers only travel on bicycles, which means their entire distribution network will have limited, if any, impact on the environment. This is a stark contrast to operations that use distribution centers, as carbon-emitting trucks would be needed to bring the food to the warehouse and then again to take it away for distribution.
As of 2018, the Denver Food Rescue had grown to 16 No Cost Grocery Programs. A typical program can feed up to 50 families per week with about one week’s worth of fresh produce. This means the DFR is currently distributing food to around 800 families per week.
If you are interested in volunteering or donating to the Denver Food Rescue, you can do so on their website, or call them up at (720) 675-7337.