Before he owned Colorado’s largest food recovery nonprofit, Arlan Preblud was a self-proclaimed foodie.
When the recession hit in 2008, Preblud had decided to leave his law career and look for another worthwhile endeavor. The retired attorney and his wife would often go out to eat in Denver and chat with local restaurant owners and workers.
“What do you do with food at the end of the night that you don’t sell?” Preblud began asking while out to dinner. He was aware that food insecurity was on the rise during the recession, and he saw an opportunity to connect food service businesses with those who were going hungry.
“Would you donate this food?” Preblud asked restaurants and caterers at first, before moving on to event centers, farms, grocery store suppliers and distributors.
When We Don’t Waste got up and running in 2009, Preblud was picking up food himself and delivering it to food banks and rescue missions out of the back of his family’s station wagon.
“By the end of the year, I knew the Volvo wasn’t going to be able to handle it much longer,” he told The Denver Post more than a decade later.
Today, We Don’t Waste has grown from the back of Preblud’s car to four refrigerated trucks, 1,000-square-feet of cooler space and an 11,500-square-foot distribution warehouse.
More than 100 donors, from independent restaurants and caterers to Cisco and the Colorado Convention Center, supply unused food via Preblud’s nonprofit. And more than 200 organizations receive it, either directly from We Don’t Waste or through food bank partnerships.
“Our goal is really to reduce food insecurity and keep food out of the landfill,” Preblud said. “So we’re not proprietary to that, and it’s worked well for us over the last 12 years.”
The project is still growing. We Don’t Waste has introduced 6-8 mobile food markets each month, which act like free farmers’ markets in underserved communities. In 2022, Preblud and his team plan to introduce a new app that will connect We Don’t Waste volunteers with local restaurants that have smaller amounts of food to donate.
“Largely it doesn’t make sense now to send a 14-foot refrigerated truck to pick up (small food donations) from independent restaurants,” explained Allie Hoffman, We Don’t Waste’s manager of strategic communications. “But we want to continue this work, we know that there’s more food to get.”
In 2020, We Don’t Waste distributed 24 million servings of food, equal to about 8 million meals. This year, Preblud said he expects to match or beat those numbers.
“But during the holiday season, the demand always increases,” he said. “We try to do this as equitably as we can… and also to provide culturally appropriate food when we can.”
Each week, We Don’t Waste volunteers are invited to help sort and package food for donation at the company’s headquarters. Volunteers can donate their time (or money) at wedontwaste.org.
Name of organization: We Don’t Waste
Address: 5971 Broadway, Denver, CO 80216
In operation since: 2009
Number of employees: 18
Annual budget: $13.7 million (about $11.5 million in in-kind donated food)
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