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Nonprofit Works To Make Sure Leftover Food Doesn't Get Wasted

By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4) - Almost half of the food produced in the country is thrown away, a statistic that motivates nonprofits like We Don't Waste.

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Theytake produce and packaged goods from across the Denver metro area and find food banks that can use items that would otherwise be tossed out and end up in a landfill.

"What we do is collect unused food from events, venues, caterers and major food distributors and then we distribute that food," said Arlan Preblud, the founder and executive director of the nonprofit. "Which is healthy and nutritious food to about 75 different community-based agencies throughout the Front Range."

Staff with the organization drive refrigerated trucks from their warehouse to pick up and deliver these items each day. CBS4 followed one crew on Monday that collected peppers and lettuce from a food distributor in Frederick. They then delivered that produce directly to a food bank in Louisville. After several years of providing this service, the team coordinates with its partners to make sure it collects a large amount of servings that can fill up a truck.

"Almost 50 percent of the food we put out is fresh produce," said Preblud. "It's all good food. It may have a short shelf life but the product is good."

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We Don't Waste just celebrated the opening of a new warehouse in Denver that is 11,000 square feet. It features a large cooler on site. This allows the team to keep food while it waits to find an agency that can use the donations it is receiving that need to be refrigerated. Previously, the organization had to make sure there was a final destination for each donation the same day they received it.

"It's an incredible problem in this country and around the world for that matter," Preblud said about the food that gets wasted.

One in six people are "food insecure" in Colorado and of those one in five are children, according to We Don't Waste. Food insecure means you don't have access or the availability to all the food you need to have proper meals through the week or over the course of a month.

"From the grower to the distributor to the retailer, there are chunks along the way where people make decisions that the food is not appropriate," Preblud explained about the large amount of food wasted.

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He says too often the final product has to look a certain way even if the taste is no different and it is safe for anyone to eat.

Preblud gives the example of a crooked carrot or an oversized cucumber. Both of these items often do not make it to the supermarket but can be saved by We Don't Waste so they get to a hungry family in need.

"Cucumber, cauliflower, and other products may be a little deformed in the way they look, the way they taste, is much the same," he said.

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The peppers that were collected by a We Don't Waste team in Frederick were either smaller than the retailer expected or were not completely orange in color. Hundred of pounds worth of peppers just that day were saved and sent to that food bank in Louisville.

This strategy allows families to enjoy a larger variety of food that is healthy and doesn't restrict them to canned or packaged items. Almost half of what the organization receives in donations is produce. But beyond what is collected and presented to customers, the consumer also has a responsibility to use only what they need. Preblud says packaging forces families to buy more than they may want and then the extra produce they bring home never gets used.

"That happens all the time, where people are purchasing not what they need but the expectation is they are going to use all that and they don't end up using all that food," he said.

We Don't Waste counts on donations to fund the work they do across the Front Range all year. They also ask the public to spread the word about their mission and the importance to reduce food waste.

"We can always use the support of the public in so many ways," said Preblud. "We're here to provide more food to more people so we can reduce food insecurity at the same time reduce the amount of product going to landfill which is bad for the climate."

LINK: We Don't Waste

Shawn Chitnis reports for CBS4 News at 10 on weekends and CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. throughout the week. Email him story ideas at and connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.


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