Kind hearted people see need in their communities and want to help, but a handful move into action to help solve problems too great for one act to overcome. The folks at Fresh Food Connect and Boulder Food Rescue felt the pull to take action years ago to combat hunger locally and throughout the state of Colorado.
“We posed the question: if gardeners could participate in community hunger relief action, how can we make that happen?” says Helen Katich, CEO of Fresh Food Connect and co-founder of Boulder Food Rescue, an organization dedicated to ensuring consumable food isn’t wasted. Fresh Food Connect wants backyard gardeners to have a way to share their harvests.
Working from the standpoint of making donating food easy and convenient, Fresh Food Connect developed a web-based method for gardeners to find places to donate their produce. Interest soared and inspired FFC to develop a mobile app to put food donation in the palm of gardener’s hands.
“The mobile app connects people with their local hunger relief organizations, those community agencies who operate local distribution. There’s been a huge resurgence in gardening during COVID19,” said Katich, “this is a way for folks to engage in their communities.”
Boulder Food Rescue is one organization using Fresh Food Connect’s app to network citizens into helping combat local hunger. “Boulder Food Rescue started in 2011 as a group of friends who saw healthy, fresh food going to waste (in grocery stores) a few blocks away from people who need it,” said
Hayden Dansky, Executive Director and co-Founder of the hunger relief non-profit. “First, Ideal Market agreed to set aside fresh food culled from the day and we picked it up.”
Boulder Food Rescue then took the fruits and vegetables by bicycle a few blocks from the store to those neighborhoods in need. Sharing the food led to conversations and trust, and today BFR partners with 8 grocery stores, neighborhood bakeries, Farmer’s Market vendors, and gardeners interested in sharing their harvest. Powering the distribution, 150 volunteers pick up and distribute fresh food throughout Boulder to Affordable Housing areas, preschools, and underserved neighborhoods, all by bicycles.
“Our volunteers will bike with up to 400 pounds of uncut, fresh produce in very large trailers,” said Luke Galloway, Distribution Coordinator. “Volunteers help us for a variety of reasons; some are interested in food justice, some want to prevent waste, others want a way to give back to the community on their bikes.”
Dansky believes the community trust built from food is a means to engage participants in creative ways to end hunger. Ideas, such as the No Cost Grocery program grow into projects that both feed and empower those in need. The No Cost Grocery program has community members take leadership roles in distributing the food brought daily, fostering dignity in work among neighbors.
Efforts such as the Grow & Give Project, a modern approach to Victory Gardens, is having a positive impact on Boulder Food Rescue and has increased participants in Fresh Food Connect’s app. “Backyard harvest has been really positive, although it’s hard to measure with all off the changes brought by COVID19,” said Galloway. “We’ve had some downturns in donations from partners going out of business but increases in other areas.”
Since its inception, Boulder Food Rescue has distributed over three million pounds of food and Fresh Food Connect has expanded across Colorado and into Wisconsin and Iowa. Having drop sites set up for gardeners to deliver food decentralizes food distribution and ensures the food is fresh when getting to the people to use right away. “Hunger was a problem before COVID, but now it’s extreme. Food pantries are stepping up and everybody has a chance to participate in hunger relief,” said Katich.
Find Boulder Food Rescue and local pantries accepting produce near you with Fresh Food Connect’s mobile app, available on iOS and Android.
By Carol O’Meara. Carol is an Extension Agent – Horticulture Entomology at Colorado State University Extension Boulder County. For more information call 303.678.6377, e-mail [email protected] or visit ext.colostate.edu/boulder.