Hole Food Rescue extends its shelf life

By on September 10, 2014

Local nonprofit finding new ways to feed Teton County, fight food waste.

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Jeske Grave and Ali Dunford of Hole Food Rescue outside of the local nonprofit’s new sorting and distribution facility. Photo: Mary Grossman.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – When Ali Dunford moved to Jackson Hole two years ago, she found herself grocery shopping in some dirty places. Dunford would sift through the contents in grocery store dumpsters, gleaning good food jettisoned solely because of its “sell-by” date.

During one such dumpster rendezvous, the Colorado native dug up the impetus for Hole Food Rescue.

“Day after day, I would return to the dumpsters elated by all the fresh, healthy free food I was finding,” Dunford explained. “Until one day … I opened a particularly plentiful dumpster and the reality of what all this free food meant hit me – everything that went into making this food was getting wasted: food, water, fossil fuels, human power, animal power/lives, fertilizer, pesticides, etc.”

Food dating, according to a recent study by Harvard Law School’s Food and Policy Clinic and the Natural Resources Defense Council, is an arbitrary indicator of a food’s shelf life. In the 1970s, as Americans began to rely more on commercial entities for sustenance, slapping dates on food became common corporate practice. But these “sell-by,” “use-by” and expiration dates, the study explains, merely indicate when a product is at its freshest. Grocers, however, feel pressure to adhere to these dates, prematurely banishing food from shelves and contributing to the staggering 40 percent of food wasted in America.

Shortly after Dunford’s dumpster-induced revelation, she founded Hole Food Rescue, a local nonprofit that salvages endangered food from local grocery stores, bakeries and farms and delivers it – via bicycle-pedaling volunteers – to local organizations where people need it most, feeding approximately 200 people each week. HFR’s client list includes the Jackson Hole Senior Center, Community Safety Network, Good Samaritan Mission and Van Vleck House, just to name a few. And food that isn’t fit for human consumption? They’ve got that covered too, distributing lackluster scraps to local farms for compost.

Once operated out of Dunford’s frigid garage, HFR secured a new home on Gregory Lane this month thanks to a Community Foundation grant. Its shiny new sorting and distribution facility will decidedly improve food sorting for Dunford, assistant director Jeske Grave, and the organization’s volunteers while also bolstering operational efficiency and better serving HFR’s beneficiaries.

“The new space is a huge step forward for HFR in properly allocating food donations and preventing secondary food waste,” Grave explained. “All donations will come in to be sorted and from there tailored donation loads will be distributed to our receiving organizations, fitting their exact needs. This will help us better accommodate the fluctuating number of people that depend on the organizations we partner with.”

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Two tireless locavores with multiple jobs, Dunford and Grave have managed to focus significant efforts on HFR, which has decidedly translated to its new home and increasing involvement with the community. When asked what they envision for HFR in five years, the two women said they would love to see the need for HFR diminish completely. “But the reality is that we will always deal with food waste,” Grave said. “The best thing we can do is use that food waste as a resource till its cycle is fully utilized instead of literally ‘wasting it’ in our landfills.”

In Teton County, Dunford continued, “We envision HFR as the main hub for all food waste, as well as a highly efficient food resource center, providing nutritious produce to residents and educating the public on ways to be part of the solution.”

Maximize your donation to Hole Food Rescue by donating money through Old Bill’s Fun Run until Sept. 12 at www.cfjacksonhole.org.

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About Robyn Vincent

Robyn is the editor of Jackson Hole Snowboarder Magazine and former editor of Planet Jackson Hole. When she's not sweating deadlines, she likes to travel the world with her notebook and camera in hand. Follow her on Twitter @TheNomadicHeart

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