This Nonprofit Is Turning Food Waste Into Millions Of Meals For People In Need.

several people and a dog posing in front of a large green truck with the 412 food rescue non-profit logo on the side

One out of every seven people goes hungry every single day, yet up to 40 percent of food that’s produced is wasted.

When Leah Lizarondo heard these alarming statistics, she took action by launching 412 Food Rescue, a nonprofit that redirects food to those who need it rather than allowing it to be sent to landfills.

To do this, the nonprofit partners with local businesses that find themselves with leftover food at the end of the day, for reasons including the food’s sell-by time, the food not meeting aesthetic standards, and transit mishaps. No matter the reason, 412 Food Rescue will find a use for it.

“Our goal is to be in 100 cities by 2030,” Leah said. “I think we can solve three of our biggest problems: food waste, food security, and mitigate climate change.”

In order to be as efficient as possible, they use their very own app, which allows volunteers to locate businesses that have a surplus of food. Once they select a location they’d like to help at, all they have to do is go there, pick up the food, then drop it off at the given location, such as another nonprofit, where the items will be given out.

Not only does this make volunteering easier, but it also ensures that more food gets to as many people as possible. In fact, this clever app is how they’ve become the largest volunteer-led food transport network in a single urban region!

Although 412 Food Rescue got its start in 2016 in the city of Pittsburgh, it has since expanded to several cities across the country, including Cincinnati and San Francisco. But the original location isn’t done expanding quite yet.

In 2019, the organization ran into a problem: They were receiving large gifts from big donors, but they didn’t have the proper space to store these donations and turn them into meals. Their solution? Open up their own kitchen!

Referred to as the Good Food Project, the solar-powered space has given this already life-changing organization a new way to make an even greater impact. At first, they were handing out 30 meals a week, but in the almost three years since they’ve opened, they’re now serving a mind-blowing 700 meals every single week.

This increase in number is thanks, in part, to the new project manager, Greg Austin, who took over in May 2020. He “reassessed the project and came up with a plan about how to scale it and be more impactful.”

Their food is now delivered to quite a few places, but they primarily deliver to the North Side YMCA, Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation, Lawrenceville United, Homewood Children’s Village, and Millvale Free Fridge.

Although they aim to use as much of the food that they receive as possible, even the items that aren’t edible don’t go to waste. Instead, they’re taken to Ag Recycle, where the food can be used for compost, or to area farms via Pittsburgh-based Zero Waste Wrangler.

“We work to find a destination for as much as we can that comes in,” Greg said. “We’re not throwing any food in the trash.”

In addition to fighting food waste and hunger, 412 Food Rescue is working to protect the environment. How? By keeping food out of landfills. This is very effective because rotting food in landfills is the leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions — and makes up about 25 percent of all material in landfills!

There’s still a lot of work to be done, but thanks to Leah and her team, 20 million pounds of surplus have been diverted from landfills and turned into 17 million meals.

“I think we will look back at history and say, ‘It was that simple,'” Leah said. “If we give people the opportunity to help, they will.”

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