Addressing Food Insecurity in Colorado—And Beyond

  • June 8, 2016
  • Hilary Livingston

A few months ago, I was lucky enough to attend the Women Inspiring Leadership Development Summit, an annual conference in Denver put on by the CU Boulder Leeds School of Business and The Women’s Council to discuss women in the business world. As a woman in the earlier stages of my professional career, it was a great opportunity for me to hear from successful women in a variety of industries on how they managed to get where they are today.

Throughout the conference, I heard from many inspiring women, including Dawn Hudson, CMO of the NFL, and Khalida Brohi, an activist who educates Pakistani women on personal and financial skills, about how they managed to find rewarding careers in particularly male-dominated areas.

I heard from members of the Colorado Democratic Party that we can work together to increase the influence of women in politics (side note: Colorado has the most female state lawmakers in the United States—woo!).

But as a relatively new Coloradan, the most significant speech for me to hear was from Hana Dansky, co-founder of Boulder Food Rescue (BFR), about a topic that is really important to me and to many in the state: food insecurity.

Because of the recent migration boom to Denver and Boulder, the already significant homeless population here is skyrocketing from residents who can no longer afford the increased cost of living. And sadly, more than a quarter of working families in Colorado do not have enough food to meet basic needs. As a recent transplant, it’s something that I have been hearing about and thinking about a lot.

The issue is now even more frustrating to me as I learned the facts from Hana’s speech. Nationally, we spend 10% of our energy budget and 80% of our national fresh water budget producing food. Yet up to 40% of food in the country—including fresh, organic fruits and vegetables—is thrown away.

Hana recognized the absurdity and severity of these facts, and she answered by creating a less wasteful food system by redistributing food that would be thrown out by supermarkets and restaurants and instead directing it to hungry, low-income populations. Perhaps most importantly, Hana and BFR recognized the need to involve the targeted community in order to create a solution that actually works.

Community participation is a huge part of why BFR is so successful today. The organization figures out the assets of a hungry community and uses them to address its deficits. For instance, BFR will deliver food to locations within low-income housing sites—most of which do not traditionally handle food distribution—so that more residents can access it.

By drawing on members of the community to help manage redistribution, the BFR has created a smart, simple, neighborhood-centric solution, which other food organizations might have overlooked in the past. And it has been extremely successful. In Boulder alone, BFR has redistributed over 1.3 million pounds of food since it began in 2011.

In taking a look at their initial process and subsequent success, I think there are several great takeaways from BFR for those hoping to make a change in their communities:

·      Real change often starts at the local level. Begin by addressing the needs of one community, and then find a way to scale

·      Find ways to incorporate what’s already available into your solution. This not only combats waste, but also makes your solution more sustainable

·      And finally, find a cause that’s meaningful to you. If you’re passionate, it will come through in your work

Boulder Food Rescue is a shining example of local Coloradans making a difference, and it’s one of the reasons I’m so happy I live in a state filled with innovative people trying to make positive change.

I highly encourage everyone to see if your community has an organization like this, or start your own if you’re interested!

Other good stuff in here