Reclaiming Food and Lives with Denver’s We Don’t Waste.
After months of thinking, tinkering with and planning a way to do something about Denver’s food waste, Arlan Preblud decided to fill his car up with food that was about to go into the trash and find someone that wanted to eat it. Just like that, in an instant, his nonprofit was born.
Preblud’s organization is now known as We Don’t Waste, a Denver-based nonprofit that gathers quality food headed for trash cans and redistributes it to organizations, shelters, agencies, and kitchens that will make it into a meal for families and individuals in need. Founded in 2009 out of the back of Preblud’s car, the nonprofit saved nearly 4,000 tons of food in 2017, which resulted in nearly 10 million meals served.
“I was a sole practitioner, and it was difficult to compete with the bigger firms. I had enough of the practice of law, and I thought there might be an opportunity [to switch to nonprofit work],” says Preblud. “I spent about six months doing research, putting together a business plan, and figuring out how I might do it. One day my kids said, ‘Dad, just do it. Quit trying to build a better mousetrap and just do it.’”
So he did just that.
“I had a Volvo Station Wagon, so I bought a tarp, folded the seats down, and started knocking on the doors of caterers. They universally said, ‘well, where have you been?’ and that was the start of it.”
In the state of Colorado, one in six children are reportedly food insecure, and as a country, 40 percent of all produced food is reportedly tossed into the trash. We Don’t Waste does not solve these crises, but it does put a dent in the problem, and it should do a considerable amount more in the future with the addition of the Food Rescue and Distribution Center this year.
In the past, should Preblud and his staff receive a call about food to be picked up, it was essential that they found a home for it before the end of the day. With the new 11,570-square foot Food Rescue and Distribution Center, (including a state-of-the-art walk-in 1,000-foot cooler), We Don’t Waste is no longer pressed to find suitable donation stations by the end of the day.
A day inside the We Don’t Waste trucks consists of several stops through the city and running into bakeries, kitchens, and distribution centers, wheeling food in and out of trucks, and making quick decisions throughout the day to determine where food will go, when, and how much of it. In an unpredictable sector of nonprofit work, the only constants are hungry people and food on the verge of waste.
Thankfully, Preblud and his team have found a niche in the nonprofit sector that comes with little restriction. Because they do not charge donators for pickup, nor do they pay to donate, We Don’t Waste can take in and deliver food that food banks or other nonprofits cannot.
Despite being comprised of less than a dozen staffers and a trusty handful of volunteers, We Don’t Waste is an essential part of delivering meals to people in need. Impacting food waste doesn’t require a team, food storage and distribution center, a walk-in cooler, or even a genius law practitioner: it just takes knocking on some doors, a tarp, and some folded down seats inside something like a Volvo Station Wagon.