If you’re a home gardener in Colorado, you’ve probably shared in a common local experience: You’ve reached the zucchini tipping point. You’ve cooked every recommended recipe you can find online, and even dabbled with some of the questionable ones. You’ve stoically stacked the green gourds like firewood in the breakroom at work and made a sign that reads: “Take me home.” Finally, you bear witness as the last zucchini of the year slowly lose their dignity in your vegetable crisper and are laid to rest in the compost alongside their equally prolific pals, the cherry tomatoes.
Wouldn’t it be marvelous if your garden’s green abundance could be delivered to the dining table of a local family with limited access to fresh, healthy food? Better yet, what if it could be done at the push of a button?
A budding collaborative called Fresh Food Connect is working to reduce food waste and increase food security by using—what else?—an app. A joint project of Denver Food Rescue, Denver Urban Gardens, and Groundwork Denver, the Fresh Food Connect web-based application makes it easy for local growers to donate extra produce from their gardens to people across Metro Denver.
“The fundamental goal of Fresh Food Connect is to unlock and leverage this resource that’s already out there, and redistribute it in an equitable way,”
Using the app is simple. Once gardeners create a Fresh Food Connect account, they can log in at any time to indicate where and when they have extra produce to donate. Fresh Food Connect maps a route for youth employees or volunteers to collect the harvest using bikes and trailers. The produce is donated or sold very affordably at youth-run farm stands that accept both cash and food stamps.
|Fresh Food Connect staff member Nyssa making the round with the FFC bike trailer
In Denver one out of six individuals—and one in five children—is food insecure. This means 20 percent of our young people don’t know where their next meal will come from. Many of these youth live in low-income areas with limited access to grocery stores, known as food deserts. Food deserts are found in the neighborhoods of Globeville, Elyria-Swansea, Skyland, Clayton, Northeast Park Hill, Sun Valley, West Colfax, Villa Park, and Baker. Compounding these harsh realities is the fact an estimated 40 percent of food winds up in the trash, uneaten and wasted. The Fresh Food Connect app addresses these issues head on.
“The fundamental goal of Fresh Food Connect is to unlock and leverage this resource that’s already out there, and redistribute it in an equitable way,” says Turner Wyatt, Executive Director of Denver Food Rescue.
With Fresh Food Connect, massive amounts of fruits and vegetables that would otherwise go to waste are distributed, eaten, and enjoyed. In 2016, Fresh Food Connect collected 676 pounds of produce from 35 local gardeners across four Denver ZIP codes and donated it to 200 people across the city.
“One of the most inspiring things [about this project] is the fact that three organizations could come together and have all of our respective strengths represented in this partnership,” says Rebecca Andruszka of Denver Urban Gardens. Each partner plays an instrumental role in supporting the process. Denver Food Rescue provides expertise around collecting and redistributing food; Denver Urban Gardens supplies connections to local gardeners who donate food; and Groundwork Denver offers the human power needed to collect donations.
|Wyatt Turner, Rebecca Andruszka, and Wendy Hawthorne recieving Impact100 Metro Denver's first grant of $100,000
In 2016, Fresh Food Connect received a $100,000 grant from Impact100 Metro Denver, a Denver Foundation giving circle composed of more than 100 generous women philanthropists. The grant allowed Fresh Food Connect to further develop the web-based application, expand its food collection catchment area to four ZIP codes, hire a part-time project coordinator, and purchase a refrigerated electric-assisted tricycle that will make pickups faster and more efficient.
Fresh Food Connect’s success in Denver inspired the Colorado Springs Food Rescue to use the Fresh Food Connect platform to address food waste and insecurity in that community. Boulder Food Rescue and organizations in Durango; Portland, Oregon; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Bridgeport, Connecticut, have also expressed interest in adopting the Fresh Food Connect application.
The project’s capacity continues to expand and inspire others to follow suit. This farming season, Fresh Food Connect will be exuberant about encouraging local gardeners to grow more than they normally would, and to share the extra bounty with the community.
The Denver Foundation is building many new on-ramps into the world of philanthropy. One way is through collective giving. Giving circles and affinity groups are a form of philanthropy through which groups of individuals donate their own money to a pooled fund, decide together what charities or community projects to give to, and in so doing, increase their awareness of and engagement in the community. Many such groups also contribute their time and skills to support local causes.
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