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Featured Changemaker: HANA DANSKY on Moving Food, Moving Forward

Changemaker Project: Boulder Food Rescue

Boulder Food Rescue is a non-profit organization located in Boulder, CO that rescues and redistributes perishable food “waste” by bike to charities that serve homeless and at-risk individuals with the goal of solving the problems of hunger, malnutrition, and food waste in our community. Philanthropiece Program Intern, Kelley Anderson, had coffee with BFC Founder Hana Dansky to learn more.

How did you get involved with your organization?

People have been asking me this question a lot lately, why do I get involved in social issues? I think the reason I got involved with food was that it is one of the easiest things you can do as an individual to make huge environmental and social impacts. When I first started to learn about food waste, I started the Food Not Bombs in Boulder. Caleb and I used to make a huge meal and would take it down to the band shell to feed to homeless people; since we were doing that every Saturday and it was getting bigger and bigger, we started asking grocery stores to donate food. When Ideal Market agreed to donate, we had to have a way to provide tax-deductible receipts, so that’s when we started Boulder Food Rescue. What we realized through doing that meal on Saturdays was that we were really lucky to have so many fruits and vegetables. Many organizations that feed hungry people don’t have access to so much produce. We wanted to take our resources and use it for widespread food distribution. That was the motivating idea behind BFR.

What events in your life have shaped your values and how does what you’re doing reflect those values?

I don’t really know what events have shaped my values. I’ve always, since I was a little kid, wanted to help people, to do good things for the world. I remember always being a moral person. My dad used to tell me, “you don’t know what’s good for the world” – and that was true, I don’t. But I’m still going to try. Since I’ve moved to Boulder and started educating myself about social issues, my values have become more defined. And I just live by that moral code: do the best good you can do. Traveling was also really big for me. Spending time in Nepal and India and living really simply and living with people that lived really simply but that still gave me a lot in terms of food and compassion – that experience was what made me see food differently. It is a community-building thing. It is something that brings people together.

What is an especially challenging or frustrating part of your work?

My most challenging and frustrating thing is working with potential donors. I see food redistribution as a really simple solution to a really big problem. It’s not an end all solution, but it’s something we can do right now. I understand that everyone is busy, but when we come to them asking them to get involved, and they don’t respond or don’t pass the information down to the employees who need to know how to do it, it’s really frustrating. People are hungry now! I try to be understanding, but I just don’t like the lag time. They don’t see it as urgent as I do.

What key relationships have shaped your life path?

My relationship with my brother. He’s only a year older than me and he is the only person who has been through everything with me. He is my rock; he keeps me sane. My lack of relationship with my mom has also really shaped me. She’s been dead for 15 year – that still makes me really angry and bitter, which affects my work sometimes. I’ll get into a funk. But it also makes me fiery and that’s really important for Boulder Food Rescue sometimes. It’s how things get done. My relationships with my friends in high school really fostered my love and appreciation for the outdoors. I spent a lot of time doing sports and hanging out in the woods. That connection to the environment was really important in shaping my values. In college, it was INVST, for sure. After three years in college, it wasn’t until the first time I led the back-packing for them that I finally found people who thought in the same way that I did; people who actually resonated with my values.

What sustains you?

Community – our community. Everyone gets burnt out, but when you see so many people that you love, that are hilarious, that make you laugh and that are working so hard to make the world a better place, you see how everyone is doing their piece. I have to do mine too. That’s what keeps me going.

What was a moment in your life when you were particularly proud?

Near the beginning of BFR, we had just gotten two new donors and so we had about five total. I sat down with a few of my friends and we were like, “Oh my god, we have two more donors, we have to figure this out.” We had this huge white board on the wall and we started drawing arrows for all of the pick-ups we had to schedule to figure out the best way to organize it and get it all dropped off. Three hours later, after being totally zoned into that process, we just stopped and looked at each other: All of those arrows on the board? Those meant that food was being moved around – saved and redistributed to places that needed it. It was such a moment of euphoria.

If you could change one thing about the world what would it be?

I would make every human being have an ethical conscious. That would change everything then, right?

What’s your plan for the future?

I don’t know what I’m doing tomorrow. I can tell you some dreams… I want to travel around the U.S. and start food rescue groups everywhere. I was joking around the other day with my friend, and we decided, “I‘m going to be the next Emma Goldman on a bike.” I’ll travel around the US and give speeches about the state of the world and food sustainability and get people really riled up.

How would your friends describe you?

My best friend once said that I am the happiest and the saddest person he has ever known. I see myself as a contradiction. I work everyday to embrace that contradiction in my life in order to create action… And I really like to laugh.