Food Insecurity – The state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. More that 800 million people live every day with hunger, or food insecurity.
Food Waste – Food that is discarded or lost, uneaten. The causes of food waste or loss are numerous and occur at the stages of producing, processing, retailing, and consuming. Global food loss and waste amount to between one-third and one-half of all food produced.
Food Rescue – A non-profit food delivery system designed to reduce food waste by collecting unused perishable food from stores and restaurants on an as-needed, real-time basis, and delivering the food to pre-determined locations where it can be readily prepared and/or consumed, thereby reducing food insecurity in urban areas.
Leah Lizarondo specializes in food rescue. She is Co-President and CEO of 412 Food Rescue, a non-profit organization based in Pittsburgh (hence the area code prefix of 412) that has recovered over six million pounds of food in the four cities they are currently operating – Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and San Francisco.
Lizarondo states, “Most food waste happens in homes, partially due to unregulated ‘use by’ dates. The second largest waster of food is the grocery store industry, also influenced by these unregulated dates.” She maintains that not only does this waste impact our society, but our environment as well, since most of our landfills are comprised of unwanted and unused food. This organic matter increases greenhouse gases, consequently contributing to climate change and global warming.
According to a report from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources, “The major contributors to the carbon footprint of food wastage are cereals (34 percent of total), followed by meat (21 percent) and vegetables (21 percent).” The report also shows that food wastage is the third largest contributor to greenhouse gases behind China and the US.
412 Food Rescue brings a hunger and food waste solution to cities by partnering with a strong, established non-profit agency experienced with the hungered population of an area that wants to have a greater impact while helping other non-profits in the city. Lizarondo provides this partner with technology and best practices to effectively operate and manage the logistics of the program.
Essentially, volunteers opt-in to the program by downloading the Food Rescue app to their phone. When a store or restaurant has a food surplus, volunteers receive push notifications along with a map indicating where to pick up unused food and where to deliver it. Most deliveries take a total time of 30 minutes to one hour, including loading and unloading. Once delivered, the food is distributed immediately for preparation or consumption.
Only 20% of the deliveries are made to food pantries, with 80% going to non-traditional sites such as housing communities, day care facilities, or after-school programs. This is important, according to Lizarondo, because often times traditional food pantries have limited days and hours of operation that are not always convenient for patrons with limited resources. Having food delivered directly to a site where it can be accessed immediately is important to food insecure populations.
Lizarondo says, “We have found that the impact of our program is significant. Because of our organization people are beginning to change the way they look at hunger.”
This year Lizarondo is looking to expand into five new cities in the US, and Buffalo is one of the cities being considered. According to the Food Bank of Western New York, “One in eight people in WNY is at risk of hunger, or are food insecure, and one in five children is food insecure.” A 716 Food Rescue could change those numbers drastically.
The first step is finding a partner to manage operations and form relationships with local retail stores and restaurants, as well as set up and coordinate delivery sites. Businesses can schedule daily, weekly, or as-needed food pick-ups. Emergency pick-ups can be accommodated as well. For example, if a caterer finds that only 200 of the 300 guests are in attendance at a wedding, the surplus meals can be delivered to a site that evening by using the app. Lizarondo is hoping to find that special organization soon.
Hope might be closer than she expected. Food Shuttle of WNY was established in 1989 by Ann Klocke. This volunteer-based organization delivers unused food to food insecure populations in Ken-Ton, Amherst, and the Southtowns of WNY.
Like 412 Food Rescue, Food Shuttle of WNY coordinates the pick-ups of unwanted food by volunteers from a variety of sources including Wegmans, BJ’s, Spot Coffee, Panera Bread, Dessert Deli, Di Bellas, and Olive Garden. These volunteers then immediately complete the deliveries to sites for immediate consumption with no storage. Some of their recipients include Trinity Pantry, Aspire of WNY, Community Action Information Center, Friends of the Elderly, and AIDS Family Services.
Unlike 412 Food Rescue, Food Shuttle of WNY does not have the benefit of modern technology to allow them to maximize their efforts. The average age of Food Shuttle’s 315 volunteers is approximately 65. Adopting a more stream-lined method of operation through a phone app could possibly encourage younger generations to easily become involved, and consequently expand Food Shuttle’s impact throughout the region with greater ease.
Could this be the partnership Lizarondo and 412 Food Rescue are looking for? Could this potential partnership catapult Food Shuttle to the next level in their journey to end food insecurity in Western New York? Stay tuned.
Meanwhile, if you would like to do your part and get involved or learn more about 412 Food Rescue, please visit their website.
If you would like to begin to make an impact here in Western New York, contact David or Cindy Miller at Food Shuttle of WNY by leaving a message on their hotline at 716-688-2527.