According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, up to 40% of food is wasted each year in the United States alone. To put this in better context, that equates to more than 133 billion pounds of food – or 406 pounds of food, per U.S. resident. Wasted, each year. There are many food banks and food rescues across the country making significant progress in combating food waste locally, regionally and nationally.
We Don’t Waste is a 501(c)3 nonprofit committed to supporting the community and the environment by reclaiming and redistributing quality food to those in need. Based in Denver, Colorado, We Don’t Waste was founded in the back of Arlan Preblud’s Volvo in 2009. With the recession in full swing, the need to address food insecurity was ever present, and Preblud saw a stark contrast in the amount of food wasted and food insecure individuals.
“As a long-time resident of Colorado, I have seen the continued rise of food insecure families and individuals unsure of where their next meal was coming from,” said Arlan Preblud, Founder & Executive Director of We Don’t Waste. “At a time when the Recession was taking a huge toll on our country – I founded We Don’t Waste to decrease the vast amount of food wasted each year in Colorado, while at the same time providing good unused food to those less fortunate. Ten years later I am happy to report that our team is continuing to make positive strides in reducing the social, economic and environmental implications of food waste.”
According to Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, 1 in 9 Coloradoans struggle with hunger. In just over ten years, We Don’t Waste has distributed over 119 million servings of food, simultaneously combating food waste while ensuring Coloradans have a healthy and plentiful meal. WDW works as an intermediary between organizations with surplus food (e.g., food distributors, sports venues and schools) and more than 70 local agencies providing hunger relief services.
As a nonprofit serving multiple cities in the Greater Denver Region, a centralized yet affordable location is a critical component of WDW’s work. Until 2017, the nonprofit operated from a 750 square foot space in RiNo. Any food that passed through the organization’s trucks was required to be delivered that same day. As a real estate-based nonprofit providing affordable rental space to more than 60 nonprofit organizations, Urban Land Conservancy (ULC) recognizes the need for organizations to operate in the communities they serve.
As WDW continued to grow (the organization received 37 pallets of Girl Scout cookies alone last year), they required a better equipped space to store and organize mass quantities of food. In 2017, WDW moved to a new 11,000+ square foot Food Recovery and Distribution Center, which significantly changed and grew their ability to operate successfully. The new space has a 1,000 square foot refrigerator and plenty of space for forklifts, excess food and volunteer events. According to Allie Hoffman, We Don’t Waste’s Communications Manager, there were more than 600 active volunteers in 2019.
Today, nearly 20% of a landfill is comprised of food, and Hoffman explained there is a significant education gap in understanding food waste. For example, the “Best By” date marked on nearly every food product (mandated by the FDA) is merely a flavor test and does not necessarily determine the quality or safety of a food product. In fact, House Bill 3981 was presented to Congress during this year’s legislative session, and would standardize and establish requirements for food quality and discard dates.
As food waste remains a looming environmental, economic and social issue, We Don’t Waste is needed now more than ever. In 2018, WDW recovered more than 8 million pounds of quality food and distributed 32 million servings of food to local agencies such as the Denver Rescue Mission, Servicios De La Raza and the Adams County Food Bank. The organization also partners with Empower Field at Mile High, and recently retrieved more than 3,000 servings of food including brats, wings and burgers.
With a vision of a region with no food insecurity, We Don’t Waste is in business to hopefully someday be out of business. Until then, the nonprofit relies heavily on grant funding, corporate and individual donors and various fundraisers. If you are interested in getting involved or attending an upcoming event, please visit the We Don’t Waste website here.