Dozens of supporters turned out recently in Colorado Springs to help raise funds for salvaging food that would otherwise end up in the landfill.

Dozens of supporters turned out recently in Colorado Springs to help raise funds for salvaging food that would otherwise end up in the landfill.

The fundraising event was the annual harvest festival for Colorado Springs Food Rescue, a largely volunteer organization that collects fresh produce and catered leftovers from businesses across the city and redistributes it to humanitarian organizations and farm stands in low income areas. By collecting soon-to-expire food and getting it where it needs to go, the organization helps fill in a gap that large food banks have difficulty serving.

So far this year the organization has redistributed nearly 300,000 pounds of food that otherwise would have gone to waste, organizers said.

At the event, Shane Lory, one of the group’s founders, shared some sobering statistics. An estimated 40 percent of all produce grown is wasted, and one out of seven Coloradans are food insecure, many of them children, he said.

The young Colorado College graduate brought the concept to Colorado Springs after working for a similar group in Boulder. Denver now has a food rescue organization as well.

Comprised mostly of idealistic young people willing to live on the cheap, Colorado Springs Food Rescue has garnered the respect of business leaders throughout the community, including Mark Terry, who is president of the group’s board of directors and donates his financial expertise to their effort.

“This group is amazing at converting dollars to help for the people who need it,” he said at the fundraiser. “It’s crazy how efficient they are with their money.”

Food rescue organizations are one of the more creative approaches to food waste, a rising problem getting more attention among food producers, grocers, restaurants and consumers.

State and local food pantries are adding commercial kitchens to preserve some of the produce they receive and hosting classes to teach their clientele about how to do it as well. Farm organizations celebrate Ag Day with food drives and bulk food donations. Commodity groups work throughout the year to bring more consumer awareness to the issue.

One example is a campaign launched recently by the beef check-off. Using social media to sign up participants, the check-off’s 30-day Food Waste Challenge distributes a weekly email and provides online calculators to help participants make small changes that add up to big food savings. Online resources include a refrigerator inventory sheet, a weekly meal planning guide and suggestions for how to creatively re-use leftovers.

At Peppers and Petals, a colorful store and market on the west side of Pueblo, owner Cheri Pullara said she works hard to find a home for every bit of bruised or browning produce she removes from her store bins.

“In my little piece of the world, nothing goes to waste,” she said as she took a break from roasting chile peppers grown at nearby Milberger Farms. “If somebody’s hungry, I try to do my part. At the very least, I take it to my brother-in-law’s farm, and he feeds it to his pigs.”

She credits her conservative food ethic to her father, who lived on a small farm and delivered produce across rural Colorado. He passed away six years ago.

“I get it from him. Dad always donated to the soup kitchen. His attitude was why let anything go to waste?” she said.

Pullara’s daily routine includes sorting through the store’s produce, removing things like browning bananas, blemished peppers or eggplants past their prime. Anything she can no longer sell gets donated to the local food pantry, which sends someone to pick up the unwanted items and turns them into hot meals that feed around 200 people every day. Anything that can’t be used there is re-distributed to other organizations in need.

“It’s like magic,” Pullara said.

She recalled donating overripe peaches one day and receiving a photo of peach cobbler several hours later.

“Turns out they really needed something for dessert that day,” she said. “Those kind of things make me happy because I can see that it does make a difference.”

Kate Garnica, who lived in New York City before moving to Pueblo two months ago, said avoiding unnecessary food waste was a constant concern for her and others in the food service industry.

She spoke about the issue while purchasing peppers from Pueblo’s Musso Farms to use for dinner at The Place, a sidewalk cafe located along the Pueblo Riverwalk, where she is assistant chef.

Restaurants do a good job of minimizing produce waste with careful purchasing and inventory management and by working with local food pantries or food rescue organizations to pass along excess items, she said. The bigger problem is all of the prepared food that must be tossed out at the end of the day.

“It breaks my heart,” she said.

“You prep for a certain number of people but you don’t know who will come through the door that day,” she added.

While employees are encouraged to take home extra food when their shifts end, which helps, any items that have been brought up to temperature and then cooled are a food safety liability for restaurants. There is simply no way to insure leftovers will be sufficiently reheated to kill food pathogens once they leave the premises.

Matthew Niichel, another Pueblo local who spent the summer working for Musso Farms at various farmers markets, was also dismayed by the waste of prepared food he observed while working at a summer camp and at a Chipotle restaurant.

“I always wanted to donate food and was told we couldn’t do that,” he said. “I want to see legislation introduced to protect the restaurants from liability. I’d love to see that happen.”



By Candace Krebs Contributing Writer

Dozens of supporters turned out recently in Colorado Springs to help raise funds for salvaging food that would otherwise end up in the landfill.

The fundraising event was the annual harvest festival for Colorado Springs Food Rescue, a largely volunteer organization that collects fresh produce and catered leftovers from businesses across the city and redistributes it to humanitarian organizations and farm stands in low income areas. By collecting soon-to-expire food and getting it where it needs to go, the organization helps fill in a gap that large food banks have difficulty serving.

So far this year the organization has redistributed nearly 300,000 pounds of food that otherwise would have gone to waste, organizers said.

At the event, Shane Lory, one of the group’s founders, shared some sobering statistics. An estimated 40 percent of all produce grown is wasted, and one out of seven Coloradans are food insecure, many of them children, he said.

The young Colorado College graduate brought the concept to Colorado Springs after working for a similar group in Boulder. Denver now has a food rescue organization as well.

Comprised mostly of idealistic young people willing to live on the cheap, Colorado Springs Food Rescue has garnered the respect of business leaders throughout the community, including Mark Terry, who is president of the group’s board of directors and donates his financial expertise to their effort.

“This group is amazing at converting dollars to help for the people who need it,” he said at the fundraiser. “It’s crazy how efficient they are with their money.”

Food rescue organizations are one of the more creative approaches to food waste, a rising problem getting more attention among food producers, grocers, restaurants and consumers.

State and local food pantries are adding commercial kitchens to preserve some of the produce they receive and hosting classes to teach their clientele about how to do it as well. Farm organizations celebrate Ag Day with food drives and bulk food donations. Commodity groups work throughout the year to bring more consumer awareness to the issue.

One example is a campaign launched recently by the beef check-off. Using social media to sign up participants, the check-off’s 30-day Food Waste Challenge distributes a weekly email and provides online calculators to help participants make small changes that add up to big food savings. Online resources include a refrigerator inventory sheet, a weekly meal planning guide and suggestions for how to creatively re-use leftovers.

At Peppers and Petals, a colorful store and market on the west side of Pueblo, owner Cheri Pullara said she works hard to find a home for every bit of bruised or browning produce she removes from her store bins.

“In my little piece of the world, nothing goes to waste,” she said as she took a break from roasting chile peppers grown at nearby Milberger Farms. “If somebody’s hungry, I try to do my part. At the very least, I take it to my brother-in-law’s farm, and he feeds it to his pigs.”

She credits her conservative food ethic to her father, who lived on a small farm and delivered produce across rural Colorado. He passed away six years ago.

“I get it from him. Dad always donated to the soup kitchen. His attitude was why let anything go to waste?” she said.

Pullara’s daily routine includes sorting through the store’s produce, removing things like browning bananas, blemished peppers or eggplants past their prime. Anything she can no longer sell gets donated to the local food pantry, which sends someone to pick up the unwanted items and turns them into hot meals that feed around 200 people every day. Anything that can’t be used there is re-distributed to other organizations in need.

“It’s like magic,” Pullara said.

She recalled donating overripe peaches one day and receiving a photo of peach cobbler several hours later.

“Turns out they really needed something for dessert that day,” she said. “Those kind of things make me happy because I can see that it does make a difference.”

Kate Garnica, who lived in New York City before moving to Pueblo two months ago, said avoiding unnecessary food waste was a constant concern for her and others in the food service industry.

She spoke about the issue while purchasing peppers from Pueblo’s Musso Farms to use for dinner at The Place, a sidewalk cafe located along the Pueblo Riverwalk, where she is assistant chef.

Restaurants do a good job of minimizing produce waste with careful purchasing and inventory management and by working with local food pantries or food rescue organizations to pass along excess items, she said. The bigger problem is all of the prepared food that must be tossed out at the end of the day.

“It breaks my heart,” she said.

“You prep for a certain number of people but you don’t know who will come through the door that day,” she added.

While employees are encouraged to take home extra food when their shifts end, which helps, any items that have been brought up to temperature and then cooled are a food safety liability for restaurants. There is simply no way to insure leftovers will be sufficiently reheated to kill food pathogens once they leave the premises.

Matthew Niichel, another Pueblo local who spent the summer working for Musso Farms at various farmers markets, was also dismayed by the waste of prepared food he observed while working at a summer camp and at a Chipotle restaurant.

“I always wanted to donate food and was told we couldn’t do that,” he said. “I want to see legislation introduced to protect the restaurants from liability. I’d love to see that happen.”