PITTSBURGH — The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that as much as 40 percent of food is wasted in the United States each year, and the waste happens even while families are going hungry. A Pittsburgh company, 412 Food Rescue, is working to solve both of those problems by using technology to pair unused food with people in need.
The idea for 412 Food Rescue started with a simple question.
"What if you take all the Costcos of the world and all the Giant Eagles of the world, and the only problem that's preventing them from actually donating surplus food is that no one can pick up? What if we solved that pickup problem?" said the company's co-founder and CEO, Leah Lizarondo.
The company bills itself as the "Uber" of food rescue. Its app, which is free in the app store, pairs donors with nonprofits in need, and then with volunteers who drive the food between the two.
"We basically started with our friends, and we started with Facebook, and we were surprised that every time we posted an opportunity to rescue surplus food, you know, people would respond in a few seconds, or a few minutes saying, 'I want to do this'," said Lizarondo.
The process starts with a phone call to the 412 Food Rescue office in Pittsburgh's East Liberty neighborhood, when a donor alerts them to excess food. Then, a human employee matches the donation with a nonprofit that needs whatever type of food is being offered. From there, an alert goes out on their app, and then is snatched up by a volunteer in a matter of minutes.
Those volunteers then pick up the food and are directed to the nonprofit that has been designated to receive it.
The volunteers describe the experience as one-of-a-kind.
"You get a lot of hugs, people are very enthusiastic. And it's great just to have that very human moment when you're dropping something off and then as you drive away you feel good," said Diane Walter, a volunteer.
In December 2015, 412 Food Rescue coordinated 497 pickups, which meant more than 112,448 pounds of food was rescued.
If you'd like to volunteer, or donate to 412 Food Rescue, you can learn more and download the app at
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