Good ideas spread quickly. In 2015, the nonprofit 412 Food Rescue began connecting food destined for landfills with people who go hungry. Hundreds of active volunteers to date have diverted nearly two million tons of fresh produce, baked goods and more from landfills to tables in Allegheny County. Then, says, co-founder Leah Lizarondo, the growing network began fielding requests from both potential donors and groups serving the needy in surrounding counties.
So here comes 724 Food Rescue. The fledgling group seeks donors, recipients and volunteer drivers in Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Westmoreland and Washington counties. Appropriately, 724 Food Rescue launched Sept. 16 at the Farm Aid concert at KeyBank Pavilion, in Washington County. Teaming with the nonprofit American HealthCare Group, volunteers shuttled unused food from catering services for performers and crew to the nearby Burgettstown Apartments.
Most of 412’s donated food (from sources including Giant Eagles and distributors like Aldo Foods) is distributed the same day in the same community, at places like public housing, day-cares and after-school programs. Typically, a volunteer (summoned via app) might transport four boxes of too-ripe or otherwise cosmetically imperfect produce and day-old baked goods from a market to a distribution site. Trips average five miles, though that figure might rise in more sparsely populated areas.
412 Food Rescue is supported by foundations and individual donors, but Lizarondo says scaling operations up is relatively cheap. And the need is substantial: Together, the five 724 Food Rescue counties have nearly as many people living in poverty as does Allegheny.