Launched in March 2015 to tackle the interconnected problems of food waste and hunger, 412 Food Rescue recently celebrated a major milestone: 10 million pounds of food rescued. That’s the amount of good food that the tech nonprofit has prevented from being wasted by redirecting it to households in poverty and nonprofits serving food-insecure populations in western Pennsylvania. Since this March, 412 Food Rescue has also rapidly adapted its operations to respond to emergency food needs created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Focusing on the logistical challenges of retail food recovery, where 40 percent of food waste occurs, 412 Food Rescue uses its eponymous app to coordinate a flexible network of volunteer food recovery drivers, called Food Rescue Heroes, who pick up surplus food from grocery stores and restaurants and deliver it to the places where it is most needed. 412 Food Rescue works with 800 food retailers, 600 nonprofit partners and over 12,000 volunteer drivers in the Pittsburgh area alone.
In March, 412 Food Rescue began pivoting to help those hardest-hit by the pandemic and its economic fallout in Western Pennsylvania. The organization launched a home delivery service and was recognized by Fast Company magazine with a World Changing Ideas award.
412 Food Rescue’s new Home Delivery services have enabled volunteers to bring food directly to 1,500 vulnerable households, mostly seniors and those experiencing mobility challenges. The organization also launched Community Takeout to financially support local restaurants and service workers while providing 15,000 meals for people in need. Partnering with several local nonprofits, the 412 Food Rescue team also coordinated food delivery to school bus stops, bringing 24,000 meals within safe walking distance of students who depend on free and reduced lunch programs.
Contributing to these efforts have been the 2,800 new volunteers who have downloaded the app since March in Pittsburgh alone.
The technology platform is also licensed by food rescue organizations in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Northern Virginia, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Vancouver, B.C. The nonprofit aims to serve 100 cities by 2030, recruiting 1 million food rescue heroes by the end of the decade.
“We have always strived to be not just a platform, but a movement,” says 412 CEO Leah Lizarondo. “Solving these huge problems of food waste and hunger requires all of us to stay engaged, and it has been thrilling to see our communities rise to the challenge, especially in recent months. Even amidst social distancing, we are more connected than ever.”
She adds, “It has been a joy rescuing our first 10 million pounds of food with the people of greater Pittsburgh, and we look forward to many million more.”