Nonprofit Winner We Don't Waste Feeds the Hungry
The Denver Metro Chamber honors the organization for its far-reaching work
Large Nonprofit of the Year
Winner: We Don't Waste
We Don’t Waste gathers excess food from events, caterers, restaurants and other food providers, and redistributes that food to underserved populations in Denver and across the Front Range. Along with helping those in need, We Don’t Waste benefits the environment by diverting food that would otherwise be destined for landfills, and conserves resources like water and soil required to grow food.
Arlan Preblud founded We Don’t Waste in 2009 and remains executive director.
Back then, he says, “The economy was in freefall. As a volunteer with a number of nonprofits, I observed that we were feeding people, but I thought there was a possibility we could provide more food and more quality food to these organizations. I talked to people I knew in the restaurant business and said, ‘What do you do with the food at the end of the night?’ They said generally they throw it away.”
The restaurants said they’d be happy to donate the extra food, and nonprofits said they’d be delighted to take it. From there, Preblud had his two computer-savvy sons develop a software program to facilitate distribution logistics. His sole means of delivery at the outset was his old Volvo, with the seats folded down. In 2010, he acquired a van, emblazoned with the “PBR” Pabst Blue Ribbon logo. Onlookers thought he was distributing beer, but Preblud’s deliveries were much more essential.
“That’s how the organization began,” he says. “And it continues to grow today.”
We Don’t Waste collects food from more than 150 donors and distributes directly to 60 community-based agencies. But when you consider that those agencies then distribute to their own partners, We Don’t Waste actually reaches about 190 community-based agencies in the Denver area.
The organization has come a long way since Preblud’s days of distributing food in his old Volvo. An early key acquisition was a 14-foot refrigerated truck. Then came an 18-foot refrigerated truck, which enabled pickup of pallet-size loads. But the organization still didn’t have a warehouse, so all food had to be distributed immediately.
“I realized if we were going to continue to grow and do what we do best, we needed a distribution center,” Preblud says. “It took us over a year to find one because of competition from industries, especially the marijuana industry.”
But Preblub did find that warehouse – a 11,750-square-foot facility.
“Now when we pick up five or six pallets, we can put out two and bring five back, store them for a short period, break them down into smaller parts, and deliver them to smaller agencies so that everyone gets a fair shake,” Preblud says.
According to the We Don’t Waste founder, 40 percent of the food in the U.S. is thrown away; one in six Coloradans is food-insecure; and one in four children in Colorado is food insecure.
“So the demand is huge, and there’s more food available,” he says. Preblud estimates there are about 50 food deserts in the Denver area – places with no grocery store within half a mile and often not within five miles. We Don’t Waste has responded by launching a mobile food market, so it can bring food to areas where it is most needed.
“Food is really the threshold of poverty,” Preblud says. “Especially with children. If a child doesn’t have sufficient food when they take off for school, they don’t learn because they’re worried about where their next meal is coming from. That part of it is very rewarding, that we’ve been able to do something about it.”
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