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We Don't Waste

Food Recovery Nonprofit Works to Feed the Community By Saving Food-Service Industry Waste From Landfill

Food insecurity is around all us. Each and every one of us is only one misstep, one accident, one unfortunate situation that leads to homelessness and insecurity. 

In late 2008, Arlan Preblud of Denver decided to retire from his 40-year career as an attorney. But he knew he wanted to keep working and was drawn to his experience volunteering with nonprofits that served the homeless.

He had served many Thanksgiving and Christmas meals to the needy and helped those nonprofits with fundraising, and he knew those organizations were having a hard time feeding their clients.

Arlan set out to find a solution. He asked his friends in the restaurant industry what they did with all their leftover food at the end of the day, and they all told him the same thing: They had to throw it in the trash.

He spent a few months tinkering with his idea for a new nonprofit and devising a business plan. “My kids finally told me, ‘Dad, quit trying to make it perfect and just do it.’ ,” Arlan says.

So he simply got in his old Volvo station wagon and started picking up food from restaurants, caterers and others in food service and began making deliveries to food banks.

And We Don’t Waste was born.

We Don’t Waste is a food recovery nonprofit that provides fresh, healthful food to community organizations in the Denver metro area that are already feeding the needy.

 “When I first started, I had no idea what it would grow to be,” Arlan says. “I was just focused on keeping it running.”

Arlan outgrew his old Volvo and expanded to a used Econoline van with 100,000 miles. And now, after 11 years in operation, We Don’t Waste has four refrigerator trucks and an 11,500-square-foot distribution center in Denver — 1,000 square feet of which is cooler space.

“There’s not much we can’t take now,” Arlan says.

We Don’t Waste has over 160 food donors and delivers to 70 community-based agencies, who then deliver to their own programs. “We touch more than 200 agencies,” Arlan says.

Most of the work of We Don’t Waste centers in Denver’s inner-city food deserts, urban areas devoid of walkable supermarkets that provide fresh fruits, vegetables and other whole foods.

However, Arlan says We Don’t Waste is currently expanding its reach to suburban agencies as the level of need reaches the those areas.

“One of the problems we find is there are pockets of those people who are unfortunate enough to not have enough food, but they’re in the shadows,” Arlan says of south Denver communities such as Highlands Ranch, Lone Tree and Parker. “So we’ve made efforts to partner with schools to provide food to students and families.”

One in 11 Coloradans struggle with hunger, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And, nearly one in seven children don’t know when or where they will get their next meal, according to the Colorado Children’s Campaign.

“Those same kids are not just living in inner cities. They live throughout the state of Colorado,” Arlan says. “It’s difficult to carry on effectively when you’re belly is aching for food, and it’s even more difficult when you’re a youngster.”

Kay Tucker is the innovation and magnet specialist for Lone Tree Elementary School. Kay says the school reached out to We Don’t Waste almost four years ago after educators realized how much untouched food and drinks the students were tossing in the garbage every day.

The partnership has been a rich learning experience for everyone at the school, Kay says. With the help of sixth graders at the time, the school implemented a lunchtime cleanup system. First, kids dump out liquids, then toss recyclables. Then they put all unopened and recoverable food and beverages in a bin for the weekly We Don’t Waste pickup.

The school also regularly holds canned food drives to augment their weekly offering.

“It’s a great learning process from a civic-minded level, as well as learning about the science behind saving food from the landfill,” Kay says. “They’re really into the fact that this food can go to people who need it.”

We Don’t Waste does not charge to pick up unused food or to deliver food to community agencies working directly with the hungry. We Don’t Waste has recently added services as more agencies have requested help in meeting the needs of their communities.

In addition to We Don’t Waste’s original mission of recovering and redistributing food to nonprofit agencies, they also have recently:

• Set up free fresh-food markets, set up like farmer’s markets.

• Partnered with the Denver Police Department to provide bags of nonperishable food for officers to hand out as they see a need while on duty.

• Created a mobile food market.

• Started working with the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, by request, to provide food for students who are experiencing food insecurity.

• Works with schools to provide weekend bags to students to have food during nonschool days.

“Food insecurity is around all us. Each and every one of us is only one misstep, one accident, one unfortunate situation that leads to homelessness and insecurity,” Arlan says. “You don’t have to look far to find people who are food insecure.”

How To Help

We Don’t Waste does not charge to recover food or to deliver it to agencies, so money contributions are vital, says Arlan Preblud, founder and executive director.

To volunteer or donate food or money to We Don’t Waste, go to https://www.wedontwaste.org/. Or call 720-443-6113

  • Arlan Preblud, founder and executive director of We Don't Waste
  • Lone Tree Elementary cafeteria shows signs for students to save We Don't Waste recoverable food.
  • Students from Lone Tree Elementary helping load donated food for We Don't Waste.