Alleviating Hunger from Bike-to-Table

photo courtesy Ethan Welty,

Boulder Food Rescue salvages wasted food to feed the hungry

Not having enough to eat is hard.

For children, going hungry is more than hard — it can impair physical and mental development.

But here in food-rich Boulder County, not having enough to eat is more common than you might expect. In fact, food insecurity is a fact of life for one-in-six Boulder residents, according to Boulder Food Rescue’s Executive Director Hana Dansky.

The statistic worsens for children, with one-in-five, or twenty percent not having enough of the right kinds of food to eat, notes Dansky.

Add in the reality that 40 percent of food in this health-conscious valley is tossed out and the picture is not only unsettling — it’s motivating. That motivation brought five college students together in 2011, determined to right this skewed scene by creating Boulder Food Rescue.

Since then, Boulder Food Rescue has made huge strides in Boulder, though Dansky is quick to say there is more work to be done.

Success by the numbers

So far, more than one million pounds of food has been salvaged from local grocery stores using bicycles equipped with pull-behind trailers. The sustainable transport system is pedaled by a volunteer corps that has grown to about 100 and one full-time and three half-time employees, says Dansky.

Most importantly, the food has been biked directly from nine participating grocery stores and a total of 30 donors to one of the more than 42 recipient sites. The one-two punch of the program is powerful: Food insecurity is alleviated for a portion of the population while fresh produce is rescued from the waste bin.

Today this direct food redistribution happens about 10 times a day, every day.


Poignantly, it’s not just food that is wasted. The host of resources used to produce that food gets lost as well.

The numbers are astonishingly high, as reported in Wasted, written by Dana Gunders for the Natural Resource Defense Council in Aug. 2012.

“Getting food from the farm to our fork eats up 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land, and swallows 80 percent of all freshwater consumed in the United States,” reports Gunders.

The kicker: Forty percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten.

Boulder Food Rescue’s Dansky says Boulder statistics mirror those of the U.S.

“In Boulder, grocery stores are throwing out hundreds of pounds of food every day,” adds Dansky. That’s enough, she says, to feed all of the locals who lack the resources to have adequate healthy food.

Salvaging perishable food

As a non-profit organization, Boulder Food Rescue’s overarching goal is to create a more just and less wasteful food system. The organization facilitates the sustainable redistribution of food “waste” to feed hungry, homeless and low-income populations while educating communities about food justice.

photo courtesy Ethan Welty,

photo courtesy Ethan Welty,

Real-time data show Boulder Food Rescue has redirected 1,025,898 pounds of good food from landfills to hungry bellies in the city of Boulder. That’s 513 tons of food, 85 percent of which was transported by human-powered bikes, regardless of weather conditions.

According to Dansky, the pillars of Boulder Food Rescue’s mission make it not only successful but about more than bringing people food. It’s about creating and empowering community and making connections.

The keystones of Boulder Food Rescue’s program are noteworthy and include:

  • Sustainably redistributing perishable food directly to the hungry
  • Providing healthy food options that cannot be distributed by other food programs
  • Collaborating with the people served
  • Creating a participatory program that recipients manage for themselves
  • Leveraging the power of food to build community
  • Collaborating with those looking to start a grassroots food rescue in their city

BoulderSource is honored to highlight the good work of Boulder Food Rescue this month, as we celebrate all-things-food in and around Boulder. Check back next week for the fascinating story of how Boulder Food Rescue’s collaborative model empowers people and get details on the upcoming fundraiser and all-out party, Feast & Fermentation.

photo courtesy Ethan Welty,

Here’s how you can get involved:

Photos courtesy of  Ethan Welty Boulder Food Rescue volunteer and professional photographer.