Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

412 Food Rescue: Revolutionary Repurposing

Pittsburgh’s 412 Food Rescue blends traditional community outreach with of-the-moment technology to get food to those who need it.



(page 2 of 2)



 
 

Now, between 3,500 and 5,000 people at six community locations and 11 high-rise buildings receive regular donations from 412 Food Rescue. “You see the truck pull up with all of the stuff. It’s overwhelming, even for me,” Sandidge says.

As soon as England pairs donated food with an organization, pickup and delivery information is entered into the 412 Food Rescue smartphone app. Volunteers — there are approximately 1,000 active users — then receive an alert. If they are available, they can ping the app to claim a pickup-and-delivery run. “We have unbelievable acceptance rates. Sometimes it happens in under a minute,” England says. 

Volunteers drive personal vehicles — some even ride bicycles or walk — to the pick-up point. At Whole Foods, most of the food that Thompson arrived to rescue looks shelf-worthy. There’s an occasional blemished apple, a smattering of taupe bananas and slight droop on some kale, but otherwise, the produce is in excellent condition. It’s shocking to see so much food is pulled from the store’s shelves. “A logical system wouldn’t let this happen,” Thompson says. 

From a market perspective, it’s a more nuanced decision. Grocery stores, particularly higher-end markets such as Whole Foods, have to account for customer perception of their products. Plus, they need to make sure that the produce they sell will maintain freshness in shoppers’ homes; food purchased on one day might not be used until a few days later.

“Devotion to quality is what sets Whole Foods Market apart. Our team selects and hand-stacks produce daily to guarantee our fruits and vegetables are at their peak and meet our rigorous standards of flavor, appearance, quality and freshness,” Annie M. Cull, a company spokesperson, says via email. 

Cull says produce departments at each store are inspected several times per day and managers at individual stores make the call about what and when to pull items from display. “Each time, the central question they are asking is, ‘Would I buy that product?’ and they’re making an evaluation consistent with our standards around any visible bruising, discoloration, ripeness, etc.,” Cull says via email.

“Because of the types of food that is coming in — it’s different from the Food Bank in that these are perishable items such as eggs, fresh fruits and meat — [412 Food Rescue has] given our residents an opportunity to get food that they don’t normally buy. They can learn how to prepare food that is really good for you. It’s helped the quality of food improve. It’s helped the eating habits of our children improve,” says Bev Moore, deputy executive director of the Allegheny County Housing Authority. 
 


Volunteer Dan Thompson loads his car “like a game of Tetris” on his weekly run to the Whole Foods store in East Liberty
 

Rescue volunteers often drop off the food at a location that offers easy, direct access for recipients. Residents of buildings and communities managed by the city and county housing authorities pick up and deliver in community centers, daycare centers and gymnasiums. Volunteers in the communities sort the delivered items to ensure equitable distribution. “When you witness the volunteers in the community come and take the delivery ... They break down all the big bulk items … so that everyone can get some of it. You have some happy campers when they’re done,” says Moore.

Elderly and disabled residents can arrange to have food dropped off at their door. “Just because you can’t get down there doesn’t mean you can’t get any food,” Sandidge says.

Or, as in the case of Thompson’s regular Whole Foods run, the produce lands at a community-centered organization that will orchestrate the final leg of distribution. Thompson’s weekly rescue ends at Lawrenceville United, a neighborhood nonprofit group. 

From there, it’s picked up by its intended recipient, Zainabu Musa, a Bantu refugee from Somalia. She uses the supply to augment the food buys with food stamps to feed her family of 10, and she also shares the bounty with five other refugee families. She takes it all back to her small townhouse in Northview Heights, where her front room is decorated in what she says is a traditional African style: seafoam sheets line the walls, shimmering with silver threads woven in a leaf pattern. A rainbow of multicolored drapery undulates on the ceiling.
 

 
 

Musa, dressed on this day in a flowing, floral-patterned purple and turquoise outfit and a red-and-white headscarf, sits with her eldest daughter, Asha (a high school student who helps to translate from Somali to English). “Food is good, and this food helps me,” Musa says.

Even though some of the food was unfamiliar at first, Musa says she’s never been fazed by what she gets.

“I’m from Africa. I know how to cook everything. I mix up African food and American food. I’ll mix fufu (an African and Caribbean staple food made with cassava and unripe plantain) with American greens,” she says. 

Still, England says she does her best to match each of the organization’s rescues with recipients who won’t have a hard time cooking the food they receive; there’s no point in saving food if it’s going to end up going to waste because recipients don’t have the knowledge or capacity to cook with it. 
 


Zainabu Musa, a Bantu refugee from Somalia, prepares and enjoys a dish of chicken, potatoes and romenesco served over boiled corn meal and pasta 
 

According to Sandidge, the recipients in Pittsburgh Public Housing often help to make England’s job a bit easier. “Food is community. [The donations have] created intergenerational activity. People are sharing recipes and learning the benefits of eating healthy. Some of the young people had never seen mangos before. And then some of the seniors showed the young people what to do with them,” she says.

The benefit of this shared knowledge extends beyond the immediacy of the delivery, Sandidge says. Before the exposure to the array of fresh produce and meat delivered by 412 Food Rescue, many low-income people wouldn’t buy a wide variety of produce because they didn’t know how to prepare it, and they didn’t want to spend their limited resources on food that might then go uneaten. Now, with a greater culinary knowledge base, they are confident enough to purchase some of those foods at the grocery store. 

“We want to move people to self-sufficiency. When they’re well nourished and well-fed they can be productive, healthy and feel good about themselves,” says Sandidge.

412 Food Rescue received its first grant — $150,000 — from the Hillman Foundation, which continues to support the organization. It also receives funding from the Heinz Endowments, the Pittsburgh Foundation, BNY Mellon Foundation and a host of smaller foundation and individual donations. It raises money and boosts awareness through an active social media presence, crowd-pleasing events such as Jamilka Borges’ all-female chefs’ dinner and “Ugly CSA,” a community-supported agriculture program that encourages consumers to purchase a subscription that supplies previously unsellable produce from Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance. Lizarondo herself is a energetic force in promoting the organization at events, speeches and on social media. [Editor’s note: Lizarondo also has contributed to Pittsburgh Magazine as a freelance writer and blogger.]

If Lizarondo and her team have their way, 412 Food Rescue is just beginning to pave the path to hunger relief. “There’s a lot of room to grow. We’re only scratching the surface of what we’re capable of recovering,” she says.

For example, 412 Food Rescue has a partnership with Giant Eagle and currently rescues from 10 of 75 stores in Allegheny County. It would like to rescue food from all 75, and eventually expand outside the county, too. Working with restaurants to salvage food that doesn’t make it to diners is an idea that’s just beginning to be explored. Lizarondo says she already is working with Borges on developing affordable, healthy frozen meals that are eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits. They also are collaborating on producing consumer products such as juice and granola bars prepared with rescued food. Their goal is to open a commissary and production kitchen in Millvale, which could happen as early as this summer. 412 Food Rescue is a finalist for the UpPrize, a social-innovation challenge that awards its winner up to $300,000 in grants and investments.

Lizarondo says she also hopes to bring the organization’s infrastructure and app technology to other midsize cities such as Columbus and Austin in 2017.

For Musa, the Somali refugee, it’s already been a life-changer. “I love the people that give us the food,” she says. “They are part of my family now.”  
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Wine Classes Keep the Pre-Wedding Celebration Classy

Palate Partners School of Wine & Spirits offers a chance for brides- and grooms-to-be to explore libations before (or instead of) a night on the town.

The 400-Word Review: Pope Francis: A Man of His Word

The careful documentary is a valuable document of the pontiff's philosophy. As of a film, there are issues.

Popular Peter's Pub Announces Final “Last Call”

The owners of the Oakland Avenue bar announced on Facebook they have decided to retire -- but are planning one last “hoorah.”

An Inclusive Community Breaks the Ramadan Fast at Salem's Market & Grill

The Strip District restaurant draws a diverse community to its nightly ifṭār buffet.

Take a Tricky Trip To Mars at Escape Room 51

The new escape room in Pleasant Hills is a great game for newer players.

Looking for a Royal Wedding Watch Party in Pittsburgh?

With the ceremony just hours away, several watch parties and live screenings of the nuptials have already sold out. But we found a few more places in Pittsburgh still taking guests whose invitations got lost in the mail.

Surprising Pirates Proving to be an Acquired Taste This Season

For the time being, at least, fans continue to send owner Bob Nutting a message wrapped in apathy.

Sunrise, Sunset: Pittsburgh Playhouse's Second Act

The curtain is closing this month on the historical Pittsburgh Playhouse in Oakland, but it will rise again when Point Park University this fall unveils its new theater Downtown, a space with a history of its own.

A Matter of Pride: Delta Foundation's Struggles with Success

Within the span of 10 years, the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh has brought the city’s annual Pride festival to previously unimaginable heights. That growth, however, has left some members of the community behind — and unhappy.

Remembering Bruno Sammartino: “The Italian Superman”

The storied grappler captured the imagination — and the hearts — of generations of Pittsburghers.

Best Restaurants 2018

This year we recommend 40 establishments as our region's top restaurants.For the second year in a row, we categorize the restaurants in All-Arounders, Killer Casual, Fancy Night Out and Classic Pittsburgh to help you find whatever suits your mood.

Chef of the Year: Jamilka Borges

Jamilka Borges, executive chef of Independent Brewing Company and Hidden Harbor, raises the bar with her dedication to volunteerism as well as her culinary prowess.

Best Places to Introduce Children to the Performing Arts

When you see a show at one of these organizations, you may enjoy it as much as the children.

If You Jump, We Jump (At The Giant Bouncy House for Adults)

The world’s biggest bouncy house is coming to the Lawrence County Fair in New Castle.

The 400-Word Review: Deadpool 2

Can the sequel to the lightning-in-a-bottle superhero hit live up to its predecessor?
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Popular Peter's Pub Announces Final “Last Call”

Popular Peter's Pub Announces Final “Last Call”

The owners of the Oakland Avenue bar announced on Facebook they have decided to retire -- but are planning one last “hoorah.”

Comments

Looking for a Royal Wedding Watch Party in Pittsburgh?

Looking for a Royal Wedding Watch Party in Pittsburgh?

With the ceremony just hours away, several watch parties and live screenings of the nuptials have already sold out. But we found a few more places in Pittsburgh still taking guests whose invitations got lost in the mail.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
An Inclusive Community Breaks the Ramadan Fast at Salem's Market & Grill

An Inclusive Community Breaks the Ramadan Fast at Salem's Market & Grill

The Strip District restaurant draws a diverse community to its nightly ifṭār buffet.

Comments

Filmmaker David Bernabo Looks Beyond The Menu

Filmmaker David Bernabo Looks Beyond The Menu

He examines the visible yet unseen labor in the service industry with his documentary, "Eating & Working & Eating & Working."

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Best Places to Introduce Children to the Performing Arts

Best Places to Introduce Children to the Performing Arts

When you see a show at one of these organizations, you may enjoy it as much as the children.

Comments

The 4 Best Sports to Try This Spring in Pittsburgh

The 4 Best Sports to Try This Spring in Pittsburgh

Looking to switch up your physical activity now that it finally feels like spring? We found four sports you can play locally that you may never have considered.

Comments


Take a Tricky Trip To Mars at Escape Room 51

Take a Tricky Trip To Mars at Escape Room 51

The new escape room in Pleasant Hills is a great game for newer players.

Comments

Phipps Summer Show is Bizarre and Essential

Phipps Summer Show is Bizarre and Essential

At "Gardens of Sound and Motion," Phipps offers giants, living sculptures and more oddities.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Surprising Pirates Proving to be an Acquired Taste This Season

Surprising Pirates Proving to be an Acquired Taste This Season

For the time being, at least, fans continue to send owner Bob Nutting a message wrapped in apathy.

Comments

Penguins’ Epitaph: So Close and Yet So Far Away

Penguins’ Epitaph: So Close and Yet So Far Away

To win the Stanley Cup Championship you have to be good, but you also have to be lucky. The Penguins weren’t enough of either this time.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The 400-Word Review: Pope Francis: A Man of His Word

The 400-Word Review: Pope Francis: A Man of His Word

The careful documentary is a valuable document of the pontiff's philosophy. As of a film, there are issues.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: Deadpool 2

The 400-Word Review: Deadpool 2

Can the sequel to the lightning-in-a-bottle superhero hit live up to its predecessor?

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Wine Classes Keep the Pre-Wedding Celebration Classy

Wine Classes Keep the Pre-Wedding Celebration Classy

Palate Partners School of Wine & Spirits offers a chance for brides- and grooms-to-be to explore libations before (or instead of) a night on the town.

Comments

He Recovers from Stroke to Officiate Granddaughter's Wedding

He Recovers from Stroke to Officiate Granddaughter's Wedding

It was always Ashley Watkins’ dream to have her grandfather perform her wedding ceremony — but a serious illness almost got in the way.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Get Creative: Pittsburgh Podcast Inspires 'Girl Bosses'

Get Creative: Pittsburgh Podcast Inspires 'Girl Bosses'

Thinking about starting a creative business but don't know where to start? From photography to interior design, Gamechangers, the new podcast from local textile designer Savannah Hayes, gives a behind-the-scenes look at the design industry from the female perspective.

Comments

Highland Park House Tour Features Architectural Stunners

Highland Park House Tour Features Architectural Stunners

Included on this year’s tour is a 22-room Gilded Age mansion restored to perfection.

Comments