Food News

An App Connects Restaurants and Volunteers to Maximize We Don't Waste's Food Recovery Efforts

A volunteer retrieves a donation from Chook Chicken.
A volunteer retrieves a donation from Chook Chicken. We Don't Waste
Before growing his charity, We Don’t Waste, into one of the largest food recovery organizations in Colorado, founder Arlan Preblud’s vision began in 2009 with his driving a Volvo around Denver to personally collect unused food from restaurants and caterers for nonprofit agencies to distribute to hungry Coloradans. Thirteen successful years later, We Don’t Waste is rolling out a new volunteer program to reconnect to its small-scale roots and maximize food recovery efforts through a partnership with Careit, a food donation and rescue software company.

“We continually get phone calls from restaurateurs who say, 'We have one pan of food, can you take it?'” says Allie Hoffman, We Don’t Waste’s director of impact and engagement. “Sending an eighteen-foot refrigerated truck doesn't make the most sense, both in terms of gas mileage and our goal to help the environment by keeping good food out of landfills. We thought, there has to be a better way to do this on a small scale.”
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We Don't Waste focuses on bridging the connection between restaurants and nonprofit agencies.
We Don't Waste
With grant funding from Impact100 Metro Denver, a women’s philanthropy collective, Hoffman and the We Don’t Waste team were able to research feasible options to capture smaller food donations with a volunteer food recovery network. After numerous phone calls with possible technology partners, We Don’t Waste selected an app created by Careit, because it was one of the few options that did not include any usage fees for restaurants.

“We knew that we did not want to charge people for doing the right thing by donating food," Hoffman explains. "Also, considering the way the restaurant and food industry were hit by the pandemic, we thought, there is no way [restaurants] are going to want to pay for us to come pick up the food. We also have been able to work really closely with the founder of Careit [Alyson Schill]. She's been really great about listening to our feedback and fixing bugs — with any technology there’s always something that can come up — and also customizing things to fit our needs.”

A major partner and ally of We Don’t Waste, Chook Chicken is excited about the implementation of the Careit app in its four restaurant locations, where they will focus on smaller food donations. Although Chook roasts numerous chickens over charcoal daily, the restaurants produce very modest amounts of unused food as a result of thoughtful waste-elimination policies and menu items such as the Booyah Kit (which is created to make using leftover chicken easy, and includes chicken stock, vegetables, quinoa and instructions) and Chook Stock.

“We don’t really have a lot of waste in our restaurants, thankfully. Everything is cooked to order,” explains Adam Schlegel, Chook co-founder and active philanthropist. “Since Chook opened back in 2018, we’ve always been big supporters of We Don’t Waste by running fundraisers and being partners with them. Even through my work with EatDenver over the years, We Don’t Waste has always been one of the organizations that we try to put in front of as many restaurateurs as possible. It’s a local company, with an amazing foundership and leadership team, and a mission that certainly almost any independent restaurant wholeheartedly believes in: helping those in need and eliminating being wasteful. We are really lucky to have We Don’t Waste in Denver."
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A volunteer retrieves a donation from Chook Chicken.
We Don't Waste
The efficiency of the Careit technology has been a game-changer for Happy Bakeshop, which is located in the Highland neighborhood at 3621 West 32nd Avenue. “It’s really nice that we can call them or schedule something on the Careit app when we need it,” says general manager Summer Gonzalez-Ovitt. “Before the app, we had Tuesday and Friday pickups, but then sometimes they would show up, and we were like, ‘Sorry we actually sold out.’ So it’s been really nice to be able to schedule it when we need it. If we can help with rising food costs by donating, then why not? I feel like it’s definitely better to have this option.”

Once food is picked up from donors, We Don’t Waste’s agency relations specialist, Kayleigh Zahn, has strategically coordinated drop-offs for volunteers directly at nearby receiving agencies. “It’s closing that loop. It’s less gas mileage. It also allows volunteers to be really close to the recovery of food and the distribution of it,” notes Hoffman. “Volunteers are able to sign up for any food runs they want to do, but we try to match them with what’s nearby. It’s really this community-serving-community feel. It’s a neighbor picking up from a neighboring business, delivering to a neighbor nonprofit, and providing food to their neighbors in need.”
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Happy Bakeshop is grateful for the Careit app's connection to volunteers to reduce food waste.
We Don't Waste
We Don’t Waste delivers food to numerous agencies around Denver and provides eight monthly Mobile Markets for those in need, but the demand is significantly increasing. Recent statistics from the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment report that 33 percent of Denver residents are experiencing food insecurity. Introducing this smaller-scale operation will allow We Don’t Waste to recover more food, but the need for participants is constant. “If people are interested in volunteering, we would love to have them. Volunteering for We Don’t Waste is really fun — and you get a T-shirt,” adds Hoffman. “If a restaurant is interested in signing up, we would love to have them reach out to our food-acquisition specialist. We are very, very particular about food safety. Our volunteers are well trained, and we provide gloves.”

Schlegel confirms We Don’t Waste’s thoroughness and encourages other business owners to participate. “For other restaurateurs or people wondering ‘Can I do this?’ or ‘Is there a liability to it?’, there is legal coverage if anything happens as a result of distribution of your food, as long as you have the right intent,” he explains. “It is safe; We Don’t Waste ensures it. It’s a great win for you as a restaurateur and a great win for your staff — because chances are, your staff really cares about this, as well.”

For many, including Happy Bakeshop, living in Colorado and being environmentally conscious go hand-in-hand. “Maybe we are doing something little in the grand scheme of things by donating cupcakes, but every little bit helps, and it’s good to know that it’s going to a great use,” Gonzalez-Ovitt says.

Restaurants interested in learning more about donating may reach out to We Don’t Waste at [email protected]. To learn more about how to become a volunteer, visit wedontwaste.org/careit.
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Staci Berry is a Louisiana transplant living in Denver since 2012. She enjoys fancy feasting with friends and the dirtiest martinis possible.

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