“I’ve never seen so many people do so much good—somehow you move 360,000 pounds of groceries without burning any gasoline.” –Steve Natali, Denver Food Rescue volunteer
Maybe you’ve seen them peddling the streets of Denver. They bend over their handlebars, pushing against the inertia of the trailers full of food hooked onto their bikes. They’ve got intensity in their legs, commitment in their shoulders, and, can you see it? A glint of pure joy in their eyes.
They’re the biker-volunteers who make Denver Food Rescue’s (DFR) mission a reality. I got a chance to hear from Steve Natali, one of DFR’s faithful volunteers, about his experience with the bike deliveries. Natali grew up outside of Tucson, Arizona, and commutes to work by bike on a daily basis. “When I first started out [with DFR], I was the only person on one shift, and so I ended up pulling 350-400 pounds. Which is—it’s not just difficult to get it started, but it’s really, really difficult to get it to stop.”
In spite of the difficulty, Steve believes DFR’s food waste reduction efforts are not the only thing that make its work a revolutionary new way to address food and environmental justice. Their use of bike power to deliver the rescued food not only reduces their carbon footprint almost to nothing, it demonstrates the feasibility of sustainable transport. “I have never in my life before then had the experience of towing something behind the bike,” Steve recalls, “And so suddenly it multiplied the ability of the bike a thousand fold.”
Dragging 400-1200 pounds of food per shift over multiple shifts per week, volunteers deliver the food from source to site so it can be consumed by people who really need it. But it’s not just the recipients who get the benefit. Steve says he volunteers because “you get around all these people who are pretty energetic and energized and I’ll just sop it up. Then I’m good for the rest of the week.” Even the grocers are happy. Steve mentioned one guy who said to him, “You know, I am so glad that my store has this program where you guys come pick up this food, because I wouldn’t be able to work here if I had to throw all this food away every day.’”
That’s the DFR, folks, spreading health, well-being, and joy—all with just a small fleet of bike trailers.