To the rescue
Springs Food Rescue a growing force in Southeast
By Zach Hillstrom
The Southeast Express
When the Colorado Springs Food Rescue (CSFR) was founded in 2013, it was a small-scale volunteer project organized by Colorado College students trying to prevent excessive food waste and to address food insecurity.
The idea was to help reshape the city’s food waste redistribution systems by taking healthy foods that would normally go to waste, loading them into trailers attached to bicycles and transporting them to sites across town where they could benefit community members in need.
Since its humble beginnings, CSFR has grown into a multifaceted food-system organization that employs seven full-time staffers, has an active volunteer base of over 300, and served more than 13,000 unduplicated clients in 2019.
The nonprofit now offers a variety of programs, ranging from a composting social enterprise to a youth food-justice education and employment program, and is currently in the process of planning what is perhaps its most ambitious initiative yet: a community-driven food center in the Hillside neighborhood called the Hillside Hub.
“What the Hillside Hub really represents is this wider transformation of our organization going from a network-based nonprofit, to an interconnected playspace food systems organization,” said Zac Chapman, CSFR’s executive director.
“When I say ‘food systems’ … we’re talking about all the different pieces that connect our food system together. So that ranges from growing, to distribution, to consumption, to waste. So when we’re talking about building the Hillside Hub, we’re really talking about the transformation of our impact in this community.”
On a 3.47-acre parcel of land at 1090 S. Institute St., donated to CSFR by the John E. & Margaret L. Lane Foundation, the Hillside Hub will serve as a community-operated space where neighbors will be able to grow, cook, learn about, access, advocate for and gain employment through fresh food.
The site is scheduled to include a four-season urban farm, an income-generating compost drop-off site, an educational community farm, and a community events and workshop space. It also will be home to CSFR’s new administrative offices.
“The Hub is going to be rooted in a variety of different programs, ranging from an indigenous live healing garden to a community learning garden wherein we can have workshops,” Chapman said.
“But it’s also going to be a site where we’re building out a couple of different social enterprises. We’re going to be extending our compost pickup and collection services, there with a compost processing space that will be able to provide jobs for folks who are in our F.L.Y. (Food systems Leadership for Youth) program.”
The construction of the Hub and implementation of its programs and services will be a multi-phased process in which different portions of the property will be activated over time.
“In 2021 we’re looking to have our commercial farm component of the Hillside Hub built out,” Chapman said. “Which will be able to provide more jobs, specifically in growing healthy fresh foods for our community for sale.”
One of the projects on which CSFR is currently working is a joint venture with the El Paso County Public Health Department to assess the impact of access to healthy, fresh foods. The first phase of that project has been collecting U.S. Census block data to try and determine how life expectancy varies depending on one’s geographic location within El Paso County. It found that, depending on which part of the county a resident is born and lives in, life expectancy can vary by as much as 16 years, based on factors such as the proliferation of unhealthy food retailers and poverty.
You can see that shift — broadly speaking, between south and north and east and west — of that distinction in life expectancy differences,” Chapman said. “We really see (the Hillside Hub) as being a space where we can keep wealth within our neighborhoods as a way for building out more resources for Hillside and Southeast Colorado Springs, and also driving more opportunity to keep dollars circulating within neighborhoods,” Chapman said. “We see this To make the Hub a reality, CSFR will need around $1.2 million to complete its construction, and the organization has set a goal to raise $80,000 during this year’s Indy Give! campaign.
If all goes according to plan, the organization seeks to begin construction next summer, with a goal of opening the Hub by the end of 2020.