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A Day With Boulder Food Rescue

Boulder, Colorado , United States
2.0 mi




ft elev +


Annually, grocery stores discard 43 billion pounds of food.* Further, 50% of all produce thrown out is still edible.** With over 23.5 million Americans lacking access to fresh produce, either due to high prices or living in a food apartheid, it is imperative that we create local, non-hierarchal, community-led, mutual-aid food justice programs to end this food waste epidemic and ensure food justice for all. How do we do this? Currently, countless organizations across the nation are working to rescue food and redistribute it to those in need. One such organization is the Boulder Food Rescue in Boulder, CO. To garner a better understanding of BFR's process in food rescue and redistribution, I met up with volunteer courier Leo Barth.
Every weekend, Leo is one of many volunteers across Boulder County who sets out to begin the process of rescuing food before it ends up in grocery store dumpsters. Today, we met just a block away from a Sprouts supermarket before beginning our mission. All across Boulder, BFR has their fleet of bikes and trailers  ready for volunteers to pedal to nearby grocery stores. Over the course of one day, a single grocery store may run through their stock two-to-three times and dump any food that may be close to or past the expiration date, or not aesthetically beautiful enough to keep on the shelves. However, grocery stores who have partnered with the BFR will transfer these blemished or “expired” foods on carts for volunteers to come pick up. 
After loading up the cart, it is rolled out back to the bike and trailer to begin the process of sorting through foods to rescue those which are in a shape to be consumed.
All produce is carefully examined before being loaded into boxes.
Once the food has been sorted through, it is then loaded onto the trailer and pedaled away to a nearby drop off. 
Today’s drop off was at the Pinewood Apartments - a low-income housing program - located a few blocks away.
Within minutes, we arrived and were greeted by the manager. She helped us unload the food and prepare it for residents to pick up.
Another successful rescue and redistribution by the Boulder Food Rescue. This is food justice in action! 

Returning to the bike racks, Leo shows me the Food Rescue Robot app - a data collection system used to track pickups, deliveries and pounds of food rescued, among a variety of other data points. As of June 2, 2020, the Food Rescue Robot operates in 33 different cities with 557 recipient organizations. There have been a total of 80,500 pickups and 9.52 million pounds of food rescued by more than 2,000 volunteers. As more food rescue organizations begin to populate in towns and cities across the country, movements toward creating more sustainable systems for food distribution are created. While food rescue programs solve the problem of distribution, in order to fully achieve food justice for all, we need to ensure that the benefits and risks of producing, distributing and consuming food are shared fairly by everyone involved. We need to work toward a cross-class, multicultural movement that engages in a wide variety of work on local, regional, national and global levels. We all have a part in creating the equality and justice we want to see in our world, and the Boulder Food Rescue - among numerous other food rescue organizations - is already hard at work creating programs for the collaboration of people fighting for a more equitable and inclusive food system. To learn more about the Boulder Food Rescue, or if you want to get involved, head over to! 

Isaac Novak
PeopleForBikes Content + Design Coordinator

* Source: National Resource Defense Council (NRDC)
** Source: The Food Trust