412 Food Rescue is rooted in the work of its co-founders, Leah Lizarondo and Gisele Fetterman.
Leah is an influential advocate for food, health and access in the region. She has worked to bring healthy food and nutrition education in many of Pittsburgh’s communities and she has served on the boards of Just Harvest and Grow Pittsburgh. Her award-winning work has been featured on NPR, MSN, Oprah.com and local media.
Gisele founded The Freestore in Braddock which distributes surplus and donated goods for free to those in need and serves thousands of individuals all over Allegheny County.
Food waste began to move to the forefront of food policy following the release NRDC’s seminal report on food waste in 2012. In 2014, Lizarondo was inspired by the surplus food that Fetterman was collecting weekly for The Freestore in Braddock–and how it was effectively providing a reliable source of free food in the food desert town. Lizarondo broached the idea of trying to replicate the process with other retailers–using volunteers to pick up the food and redirecting to other nonprofits serving those who are food insecure. Later that year, the pair took to social media to start the movement that is 412 Food Rescue today.
Building the Team
In 2015, Jennifer England joined the team and began to work with retailers to redirect food. The group used social media as an initial vehicle for coordinating volunteers to transport food from donors to nonprofits.
In our first year, we began our valued partnership with Repair the World Pittsburgh and its Executive Director, Zack Block–which continues to this day. Repair the World fellows Annie Dunn and Lori Ferguson helped 412 Food Rescue recruit and grow our first volunteers.
In July 2015, Carmen Parise donated a small refrigerated truck to the organization that allowed it to collect food from distributors. He served as the organization’s most dedicated volunteer, operating the truck twice a week for an entire year–significantly increasing the organization’s impact.
In 2016, the organization launched its first full year of funded operations with Lizarondo as its CEO. Fetterman continues to serve as Chair Emeritus and England directs the organization’s food recovery operations.
We are indebted to the work that Carmen Parise has given and have dedicated the organization’s highest volunteer recognition to him. Annually, the “Carmen Parise Volunteer of the Year” Award honors our most exceptional volunteer. We are also grateful to John Wise and The Hillman Family Foundation’s Opportunity Fund for the seed investments that launched 412 Food Rescue.