An estimated 31 percent (133 billion pounds) of food is wasted in the U.S. every year.

Denver Food Rescue (DFR) is hoping to reduce that – one pedal at a time.

DFR is a nonprofit organization that saves unspoiled produce from farms and grocery stores that would otherwise go to waste. It then redistributes that food to organizations that work with food-insecure and low-income families.

Amy Moore-Shipley, development and marketing coordinator at DFR, said about 75 percent of food pickups are done on bikes.

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Image courtesy of Denver Food Rescue.

“We’re fortunate to live in a town that makes it possible to do more on bikes. It’s a lot less expensive to have bicycle trailers than having to use trucks, and it also just minimizes our carbon footprint even more. We’re all about being the different model than traditional hunger relief.”

Amy Moore-Shipley I Denver Food Rescue

That includes the food itself.

Not Your Typical Food Rescue Organization

While there are many food rescue programs out there, DFR does things differently by focusing on produce. After all, its mission is to increase health equity in Denver by reducing barriers to fresh, healthy food in food swamp (an area where there’s an excessive amount of low-nutrient food) communities.

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Image courtesy of Denver Food Rescue.

Much like Boulder Food Rescue, where DFR got its roots.

In fact, that community of founders noticed that a lot of good food was being thrown away. Most of it was produce simply because of the way that traditional food organizations go around and pick up food.

Moore-Shipley_QuoteAll of this good food was being thrown away, yet people that need and want it don’t have access to it.

Now they do thanks to DFR and its volunteers, who bike up to 10 miles a day round trip on average.

Pickups and deliveries happen all days of the year. Even if there’s a blizzard, in which case volunteers will use their cars; the food still gets moved no matter what.

The organization’s staff consists of four full-time employees with over 100 volunteers who Moore-Shipley said do shifts at some point, with about 60 to 70 regular volunteers who are always on shifts.

“They’re really dedicated to making sure that the shift happens. Sometimes staff has to fill in but most of the time the volunteers are on it,” Moore-Shipley said. “They’re definitely people that see a problem and want to address part of the change. They know that they can do something really immediate, and real and physical. They’re awesome.”

Produce-ing Results

Last year, 148 volunteers completed 1,747 food rescue shifts, travelling 18,000 miles on bike. They helped rescue 342,292 pounds of food, 62 percent more than what was rescued in 2015. Since 2012, 677,000 pounds of food has been rescued and redistributed.

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Image courtesy of Denver Food Rescue.

This year’s goal is to rescue 600,000 pounds of food. The more partnerships DFR gets with food donors and places for that to go, it’s possible.

DFR is hoping to open four more no-cost grocery programs, which is where the food is actually taken. There’s 12 now that are all community and resident-led. A typical grocery program serves about 50 families every week, with each family going home with about a week’s worth of mainly fresh produce.

“We don’t want to just show up in a community and be like, ‘Eat this food.’ We want to work with people that want access to healthier food,” Moore-Shipley said.

Much like its programs, DFR has many events, including the Forward Food Summit. This year will be the 4th annual Forward Food Summit, which will be held on April 1 and will focus on storytelling and interactive experiences to get people talking about food.

So, what’s the most rewarding part of Moore-Shipley’s job?

“Bringing together many different aspects of a community to achieve something that needs to be achieved,” she said. “That’s what sets us apart maybe from even traditional social work type of experiences, where it’s kind of like putting a Band-Aid on the problem and not really figuring out what can we do to make that better and different. We listen in a way that I think maybe is special and new to addressing these issues.”

Budget Dumpster is your community-focused source for a dumpster rental in Denver. This article is part of a series spotlighting organizations that are making a difference in the communities we serve. If you know of another great food rescue organization, let us know in the comments!