Over the past five years, Pittsburgh-based non-profit 412 Food Rescue has taken a giant bite out of both retail food waste and food insecurity in western Pennsylvania. Now the focus of the organization will be on strengthening that network in areas surrounding its flagship location, namely Westmoreland, Beaver, Washington, Fayette, and Butler Counties.
Using the Food Rescue Hero app, 10,000 highly engaged volunteers have prevented more than 8 million pounds of good food from going to landfills and redirected it to people who need it. The app’s users have effectively eliminated emergency calls for food from public housing communities, and the organization is now partnering with housing communities in other areas as well.
Anyone can download the app, available on iOS and Android, and, in many cases, start rescuing food the same day. Most rescues take under one hour to complete and involve a volunteer picking up food from a retail donor, like a grocery store or restaurant, and delivering it to a non-profit that serves people who are food-insecure. Users in the 724 area may not see many nearby rescues right away, but as the network expands throughout 2020, opportunities to participate will increase.
412 Food Rescue began expanding into the 724 area in 2016 and currently works with 102 donors and 98 nonprofit partners there. Over the past four years, the network in the area has completed 8,035 rescues, saving over a million pounds of good food from being wasted and getting 982,914 meals to people in need.
Thanks to 412 Food Rescue’s impact and growth, the organization has secured a USDA grant, which it will use to increase service in areas where public transit is less accessible in Westmoreland, Washington, Fayette and Butler Counties. Working full-time to identify food donors and nonprofits in these areas, as well as spread the word, will be Food Rescue Hero Regional Expansion Manager Mel Cronin, an Incline “Who’s Next: Food and Beverage” honoree.
“Thanks to the USDA grant and our increased staff capacity, 412 Food Rescue will really be able to focus on operational efforts and partnerships in western Pennsylvania,” says Cronin. “Our target is to eliminate food waste and hunger — we want to make sure good food goes to people, not landfills. In this area, as in so many others, a major barrier to food security is reliable transportation access. By building a network of volunteer drivers, we can eliminate that barrier in many ways.”
“I have been involved with 412 Food Rescue for about two years. After picking up rescues at various sites around Pittsburgh, the opportunity arose to pick up a regular weekly rescue from my local Shop ’n Save in Murrysville and deliver to an apartment building in Irwin,” says Food Rescue Hero Barbara Lease. “This regular food rescue and delivery has been a wonderful experience for all involved. I highly recommend volunteering for 412 Food Rescue. It provides so much joy for those in need and allows you to work flexibly within your own schedule.”
412 Food Rescue has already partnered with large food donors in the area, including the Charley Brothers, who own two local Shop ’n Save locations; The Westmoreland Museum of American Art; and U.S. Foods, all of which have launched weekly donations. Additionally, Westmoreland County Housing Authority has signed on as an anchor nonprofit partner, and Food Rescue Hero is currently providing food to close to 100% of housing sites in the county.
Grocery stores, food suppliers, event venues and others interested in becoming food donors can learn more at this link: https://412foodrescue.org/