THE BUZZ: Dumpster delights

By on August 18, 2015

After two years fighting food waste, Hole Food Rescue is ready to party

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Alison Dunford (left), and Jeske Grave are the tireless duo behind Hole Food Rescue. Photo: Lori Roux

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – Each morning, Michael Ratliff assembles an impressive spread at the Good Samaritan Mission hardly reminiscent of a soup kitchen breakfast. As glints of sun brighten the Jackson Hole shelter, people pour in to nosh on fresh organic fruit, Persephone pastries, yogurt, cereal, bacon, hash browns and eggs made to order.

In addition to the donations from local grocery stores such as Albertsons and eateries like Domino’s, much of the ingredients used in the mission’s meals – sourced from local food purveyors and organic farms – would end up in the trash if it didn’t find its way to the mission’s doorstep via Hole Food Rescue. “Without them, we would really be lost,” said Ratliff, a retired registered nurse who took over as the mission’s kitchen manager one year ago.

Thanks to HFR, in the last year, the mission that serves 500 to 600 meals per week to hungry people, has ramped up the quality of food it offers while shaving thousands of dollars off its monthly budget.

Founded by dumpster diving do-gooder Alison Dunford, who is joined by the equally altruistic Jeske Grave and more than 50 volunteers, Hole Food Rescue is hosting its first fundraiser Thursday at the Center for the Arts. What the small Jackson nonprofit – which rescues 20,000 pounds of food from dumpster demise every month on average – has accomplished in just two years could serve as a blueprint for other communities. Particularly as the issue of food waste, with Americans tossing more than 40 percent of their food in the trash, simmers on the minds of more and more people.

In July, John Oliver opened his HBO show with a segment denouncing America’s proclivity to trash perfectly good food. As Oliver poked fun at a nation with both obsessive and frivolous food behaviors, viewers witnessed footage of a California food dump where hulking boxes of organic kale, spinach and lettuce, all verdant and unscathed, are sent to whither and die.

“There is a lot of momentum around the whole issue of food waste in the U.S. with Oliver’s segment and the new documentary ‘Just Eat it,’ [both screening during HFR’s fundraiser],” Grave said. “So we are really trying to ride on this wave to get the word out about Hole Food Rescue’s local solution to food waste.”

In addition to raising awareness about the ills of food waste, HFR’s local solution is pretty simple: salvage food destined for the dump from 12 outfits comprised of grocery stores, bakeries, restaurants and farmers markets and deliver it to hungry folks at 18 different organizations, such as the Good Samaritan Mission, the Senior Center, Jackson Hole Food Cupboard and Teton Literacy Center. But while the concept is straightforward, the societal and environmental benefits are multi-faceted.

Saving food en route to the trash means that folks who worry where their next meal will come from enjoy some level of relief. As the kitchen manager of the Good Samaritan Mission, Ratliff said he’s seeing rippling food uncertainty among the folks seeking help from the mission, which has been at capacity all summer.

“People making a decent wage are now being faced with the choice to either pay rent or pay for food,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as consistently limited access to adequate food because of lack of money and other resources. “One in six Americans is considered ‘food insecure,’” Grave said. “A mismanagement of food resources is the main reason behind food waste hunger.”

A 2009 report published in PLOS ONE warns of another byproduct of food waste – devastating environmental impacts. More than one quarter of total freshwater use is accounted for by wasted food, according to the report. Wasted food accounts for 300 million barrels of oil per year representing 4 percent of the total U.S. oil consumption in 2003. In addition to this wasteful consumption of fossil fuels and their direct impact on climate change, food waste rotting in landfills produces substantial quantities of methane.  The gas has a 25-time more potent global warming potential than CO2, which would have been the primary end product had the food been eaten and metabolized by humans, the report explains.

In Jackson Hole, where environmental and conservation efforts are positioned at the forefront of community ideology, Grave hopes that as HFR helps to raise awareness, behavior, too, will shift. If we can learn to fully utilize food resources, it will ensure ecological systems are respected and sustained, she said.

From feeding a few hundred people per week upon its inception to more than one thousand mouths today, Hole Food Rescue is a testament to the impact a small group of dedicated individuals can have on its community.

Attend the Hole Food Rescue fundraiser from 6 to 9 p.m., Thursday at Center for the Arts. $10 suggested donation. Sample rescued food made into tasty hors d’oeuvres, hear live music, win raffle prizes, view the new documentary  ‘Just Eat It,’ and more.

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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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