With inflation still squeezing Coloradans, a nonprofit organization estimates half a million people will receive the food it recovers, whether that’s leftovers from Broncos games, misshapen produce or pantry staples with less-than-perfect packaging.
We Don’t Waste was founded in 2009 to collect food that would otherwise be thrown out, even though it’s safe to eat, and deliver it to other nonprofit groups or directly to people struggling to put meals on the table. They focus on produce, meat and dairy products, and have recovered about 20 million individual servings of food since 2010.
Close to 100 organizations receive food from We Don’t Waste, and others are looking to join. Miguel Huerta, assistant director of community engagement and programs at the Metropolitan State University of Denver, said he hopes their Roadrunner Food Pantry will get off the waiting list by the end of the year. They have partnerships with local farmers to provide fresh food, but with the end of Colorado’s growing season, there’s a gap in produce that they hope We Don’t Waste can fill, he said.
The pantry could serve as many as 3,000 students this year, which would be roughly double the number who sought food in the previous academic year, Huerta said. That’s probably due to a combination of increased need and greater awareness that there’s an option if students are feeling squeezed, he said.
“We’re breaking records (for students served) every week,” he said.
Before the pandemic, about 400,000 people received food from We Don’t Waste directly or through a partner organization, founder Arlan Preblud said. The last three years have forced them to adjust repeatedly as the level of need increased or decreased with economic trends and supply jumped around depending on what donors had available.
“Just when you think things are leveling out, you get hit again,” he said.
Preblud initially used his personal vehicle to bring food from catered events to nonprofit groups, then was able to pick up donations from larger venues after a beer distributor donated a van. Now, We Don’t Waste has four refrigerated trucks and 22 employees, as well as volunteers who sign up to get donations that are small enough that it doesn’t make sense to send a 14-foot-long truck, he said.
“We’ve grown considerably, to say the least,” he said.
The group also runs six to eight distribution sites a month, with some set up like farmers markets and others allowing recipients to drive through while volunteers bring items to them. The food is free, but it’s more like a normal shopping experience than just providing people with a bag of items they may not like or know how to cook with, Preblud said.
Some families never fully recovered the income they lost in the Great Recession, making them more vulnerable when employment dropped early in the pandemic and prices rose, Preblud said.
“One never knows if the person next door to where they live is someone we help,” he said.
The Denver Post Season To Share is the annual holiday fundraising campaign for The Denver Post and The Denver Post Community Foundation, a recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, tax identification #27-4328521. Grants are awarded to local nonprofit agencies that provide life-changing programs to help low-income children, families and individuals move out of poverty toward stabilization and self-sufficiency. Visit seasontoshare.com for more information.
Source: Read Full Article