412 Meals Rescue expands its starvation aid efforts within the area


4th12 food rescue is best known for getting surplus food that would otherwise have been wasted into people’s kitchens for use. It’s an extraordinary effort that has impacted the lives of tens of thousands of people in the area since the nonprofit started in March 2015. The latest impact report from 412 Food Rescue finds that the organization worked with 744 donors to save and distribute 7,941,689 pounds of food January through November 2020.

Leah Lizarondo, Co-Founder and CEO of 412, believes the reason the nonprofit is so successful is the technology it has developed to manage its goals, including the innovative 412 Food Rescue Hero app. “We are a logistics organization. The only thing we’re really good at is taking food from one place to another, ”she says.

To that end, 412 Food Rescue has become the cog in a significant number of efforts to ensure food gets to the homes of those in need during the COVID-19 crisis. Often times, the programs in which it is involved also support the difficult hotel industry in the region.

Enjoy the meal

A newer program from the pandemic era is Downtown Community Takeout, a partnership between 412 Food Rescue and Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership funded primarily by a grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation but also welcomes support from individual donors. It’s a perfect example of how 412 Food Rescue has adapted to current needs.

The program began last May with a pilot program called Community Takeout that involved eight restaurants across town. In the short term, both restaurants and people with unsafe food, many of whom suffered from food insecurity for the first time, should be helped to weather the initial storm of the red phase at the time.

As the pandemic spread, 412 Food Rescue and its partners looked for a way to continue supporting restaurants while fulfilling their mission to alleviate hunger. Downtown made sense as the focal point as its restaurants were particularly hard hit, as the number of daytime office workers, evening recreational visitors, business travelers and convention goers is still a tiny fraction of the pre-pandemic number.

Eating team

“Downtown Community Takeout is something I’m really excited about. We had these restaurants that have supported us over the years and now we have been able to do the same for them while fulfilling our mission of feeding people, ”says Lizarondo.

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership is responsible for the contract with the restaurants. The funds offered cover the cost of meals, overheads and employee salaries. The kitchen of Bae Bae, the Mexican restaurant Las Velas, Arepitas, The Speckled Egg and the Proper Brick Oven & Tap Room are among the 18 participating restaurants. 412 Food Rescue volunteers can sign up through the organization’s app to deliver the meal – around 3,000 meals are currently being delivered each week – and volunteers can set a regular delivery route.

Meals are delivered to 412 Food Rescue’s non-profit partners. Currently, most meals go to the Pittsburgh Housing Authority and Allegheny County Housing Authority locations. The restaurants can choose what they want to prepare, as long as the meals include protein, starches, and vegetables. “Meals have to be healthy and rich enough to feed an adult. Meals ranged from pad thai to grilled chicken with rice and vegetables to enchiladas. We recommend that the participating restaurants mix up their offers if possible. We also ensure that at least one of our restaurants prepares halal meals, ”said David Neimanis, Partner Experience Manager, in an email.

Downtown Community Takeout is the latest in a series of efforts by 412 Food Rescue to serve as a vital bridge for Pittsburghers suffering food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bus at the Botanico bar

Last spring, volunteers distributed nearly 30,000 meals along the school bus routes to children and families who did not have access to free or inexpensive school meals because schools were closed. 412 Food Rescue also launched home delivery to bring food directly to vulnerable populations, including the elderly, immunocompromised and homebound people (previously, volunteers have typically brought food to central distribution points). As of November 30th, they have served 2,149 households the equivalent of 205,514 meals.

The Farmers-to-Families program offered 36 food distributions in six counties, distributing 4.5 million pounds of fresh produce, dairy and groceries from May to October. Special programs like Mom’s Night Off, a collaboration with Single Mom Defined, EAT Initiative and Women and Girl’s Foundation, provided meals to 100 single mothers between December 19 and 26.

The most recent partnership is with Allegheny Eats, an organization dedicated to supporting restaurants in Pittsburgh as well as local farmers and food producers. Once again, 412 Food Rescue will give people the opportunity to deliver the meals to the participants.

“For many of us we don’t think about how easy it is to have things delivered. We forget the importance of comfort in a social service. We can make sure that not only is the food available that people need, but that the people who need it can get it, ”says Lizarondo.


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