Boulder Food Rescue aims to create a more just and less wasteful food system. We facilitate the sustainable redistribution of healthy food that would otherwise be wasted to communities facing food insecurity. We work to increase access to fruits and vegetables, remove food access barriers, reduce food waste, implement more equitable and just food rescue practices, build trust with communities, and support the community-led programs.
Boulder Food Rescue (BFR) started in the fall of 2011 as a result of University of Colorado research conducted by two of BFR's founding members. They discovered that enough food is thrown away each day to feed everyone who is food insecure in Boulder and Broomfield Counties. In discussions with grocery stores regarding this finding, they learned that much of their composted food could not be donated to a food bank because the food was "too perishable," i.e., in the time it takes for the food to be picked up and taken to a warehouse, sorted, then redistributed to shelters and homes, it would be inedible. Additionally, some of the to-be-composted food could not be accepted by the area food banks because of policy restrictions. Food not in original packaging is precluded from being distributed by these food banks, which amounts to thousands of pounds of nutritious food being thrown away every day.
In light of this situation, Boulder Food Rescue was formed to provide direct, just-in-time delivery of perishable food. In order to be truly sustainable, it was a central principle that food delivery would be done by bicycle and bike trailer whenever possible. It started with a meal in the park, where feedback from the community resulted in two core values of the organization. The first was that it was the meal that people most looked forward to during the week, because it was all fruits and vegetables. BFR decided to focus primarily on healthy foods, such as fresh produce. The second piece of feedback from the community was this: "we appreciate how you all sit down and eat with us." We wanted to break down traditional stereotypes of charity work, including the idea that the more privileged should serve the less privileged. We carry this core value of participatory structures throughout all of our programs. Recipients of food design their own programs, help by volunteering to set up their own grocery programs, volunteer by doing their own pick-ups, and give us feedback and desires that influence the way in which we do our work.
BFR first began pickups from just one grocery store, but quickly discovered that many organizations and people were in need of fruits and vegetables. Our organization now picks up seven days a week, 12 times per day from 23 different food vendors, and delivers this nutritious produce to 36 different organizations and grocery programs every week. We have rescued over 3 million pounds of food to date, 85% of which has been done by bicycle.
"I first heard about BFR after seeing an article in the Daily Camera about 6 months after the organization formed. I was immediately impressed with the work of this unique group: feeding the hungry, reducing food waste and saving the planet! I went to one of the organizational meetings, and I was even more impressed by the intelligence, energy and clear commitment of the BFR crew. I signed on to help then and have been an active member since."
-Gayle, Volunteer & Donor
"COVID has brought many hardships, yet BFR has adapted by bringing more food as needed to our community, which has been especially important for those of us who were suddenly plummeted into the trials of unemployment or reduced work hours. BFR has taken care of our community when we needed it most."
- Jennifer Risch, Grocery Program Coordinator
"I have learned A LOT from BFR in regards to genuine engagement and participation, collaboration, justice and respect, and humility. I adore BFR: its staff, its mission, its approach. It has been impactful to have those experiences as I have gained memorable life and professional lessons."
- Ingrid Castro-Campos, Community Partner