412 Food Rescue adds virtual volunteering option | Food | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

412 Food Rescue adds virtual volunteering option

click to enlarge PHOTO: 412 FOOD RESCUE
Photo: 412 Food Rescue
In ordinary times, the Pittsburgh-based nonprofit 412 Food Rescue addresses rampant food waste through the hard work of volunteers who donate their time to collecting and distributing unused produce and other goods from restaurants and markets.

But how is 412 Food Rescue continuing its operations even as COVID-19 demands social distancing and keeping people home? For one, the organization recently released a No Contact Rescue Protocol for its “Food Rescue Hero” volunteers. The protocol combines standard CDC-recommended prevention measures such as thorough hand-washing and standing six feet apart, with more job-specific guidelines such as having food donors bring the food outside to an established “no contact pick-up location.”

A 412 Food Rescue email says by "changing [its] strategy to do so as safely as possible,” volunteers can continue “to rescue food and feed those most in need."

While Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf called on all nonessential businesses to shut down as a way to curb the spread of the virus, 412 Food Rescue was given an exception as a “life-sustaining business” because of its status as a food provider.

For those wanting to contribute to 412 Food Rescue's cause without risking exposure to the virus, the organization also launched a virtual volunteering option. Sara Swaney, senior director of advancement at 412 Food Rescue, says virtual volunteers will update the Allegheny County Food Distribution Map by reaching out to nonprofit partners for details on any changes to their service hours and other information on their response to the COVID-19 outbreak. This will help Food Rescue Heroes know where, when, and how they are accepting food to distribute.

Virtual partners will need access to a phone, computer, and an internet connection.

“We had tremendous feedback with our social posts this morning and look to have filled all of these needs at the present time,” says Swaney.

Swaney adds that so far, 20 people have responded since 412 Food Rescue announced the virtual option Thursday morning. The organization has also experienced a significant rise in volunteer activity — since March 9, 86 new volunteers have completed one or more food rescues.

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