According to the National Resources Defense Council, 40% of the food supply in the U.S. is wasted, which works out to more than 20 pounds of food per person per month, (NRDC, 2017). To combat this adversity, Kaizen Food Rescue aims to prevent food waste, improve food justice and health equity in Denver metro.
Kaizen Food Rescue (KFR) was created in 2019 by Thai Nyugen, a former Refugee. KFR worked with local Jefferson County parents to help them gain access to healthy and culturally relevant food in order to maintain a healthy and vibrant community. We began as a small fresh food table in 2019 at Great Work Montessori School in Lakewood with one Astro van full of healthy food. While expanding our work through partnerships with nonprofits, Thai's experience as an events planner and marketing manager provided the expertise required to organize and facilitate fresh food pickups from the Food Bank of the Rockies and deliver them to those in need. As more and more people fell through the cracks during the beginning of the pandemic, we stepped up to provide food security to thousands of people. During the pandemic, food insecurity tripled (HungerFreeColorado 2020), and though assistance eventually rolled out, anyone calling the unemployment line could tell you that it was not fast enough. We pivoted from a small food rescue to an organization seeking to feed all those in need. To this end we created "free food shares," a mobile food pantry that supplies emergency food boxes in accordance with CDC guidelines. Because of this early work, as CARES-Act funding rolled out, we distributed over $300,000 of in-kind donations through 2020 and into 2021 in Jefferson County. During the pandemic, KFR became one of the largest food distributors and partnership agencies with Food Bank of the Rockies and served over 20,000 pounds of food per day.
Ten years ago, Nancy came to Denver with her family to treat her son Angel's cerebral palsy. She lived in a shelter when she first arrived and she did not speak English. She has relied on her son, Armando, to communicate. When Nancy had time away from caring for her family, she made a living by becoming a driver. Her husband worked too.
Nancy knew about our organization through our site manager Cynthia, who helped them put food on the table. Their family could get by this way even with the expensive therapy her son needed. However, the pandemic changed all of this. Both Nancy and her husband got sick with COVID-19 and Nancy's husband was hospitalized for 3 weeks.
When her husband was in the ICU Nancy did not know how she was going to pay rent. She did not know how she was going to feed her children and sustain Angel's therapy. Nancy says that she does not know how she would have done it without Kaizen. She reached out to Cynthia to help sustain her family through her husband's hospitalization. And she did. Our organization helped them not have to make the choice between food and therapy for her child. We brought them food when they could not leave their house.
Her husband is still recovering from COVID-19 and cannot work, but she knows that she can put food on the table because of Kaizen Food Rescue. Today she volunteers with us to give to others what she was given in her time of need.
"Thank you so much! Because of you, I don't have to donate blood this week."
"I am just so grateful to you all. I can now afford my medication."