412 Food Rescue’s Community Takeout program has given many local restaurants a lifeline during the pandemic – and fed many local people affected by food insecurity.
Of the 33 restaurants supported by Community Takeout in the first two rounds, all but one have survived the pandemic. Now, Community Takeout is expanding for a third round and is open to all restaurants in Allegheny County – except those in Pittsburgh, McKeesport and Penn Hills (due to funding requirements) – who wish to participate.
“With community support, we’ve poured $ 410,000 into valued small businesses and provided 55,000 meals for those in need,” said Leah Lizarondo, co-founder and CEO of 412 Food Rescue. “Restaurants are such important places for connection and community, and we are committed to helping the service industry people who make these experiences possible.”
Community Takeout works like this: After the meals of the day have been prepared by participating restaurants, the voluntary “Food Rescue Heroes” from 412 Food Rescue deliver contactlessly to their non-profit partners. Some also bring their meals directly to homes in their home country through Home Delivery, an elderly assistance program, and others prone to Covid.
“Not only was it a great source of income when it was really slow and we were doing takeaway, but it also helped us keep some employees who would otherwise have been on leave or laid off,” says Aimee DiAndrea, co-owner of DiAnoia’s Eatery in the Strip District.
This third round of Community Takeout aims to deliver an additional 100,000 meals and support more than 60 restaurants.
Community Takeout was sponsored by a longtime 412 Food Rescue supporter, Dr. Mark Baratz, who independently launched a program called DoublePlay in the early days of the pandemic. On the program were restaurants such as the Dancing Crab Thai Noodle House, Salems Market and Grill and Chicken Latino in May 2020.
The final round of Community Takeout focused on 19 downtown restaurants hit by the lack of cultural district events and empty offices while so many people are working from home. Working with the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, the Community Takeout program currently pays 19 downtown restaurants a total of approximately $ 24,000 per week to prepare more than 3,000 meals per week.
“The community has helped us in three ways,” said Spencer Warren, owner of Warren Bar & Burrow in downtown Pittsburgh. “We were able to give the staff lessons helping clean up food waste in the restaurant and we were able to feed our community.”
Nationwide, more than 100,000 restaurants closed before September 2020. In April 2020 alone, more than 5 million employees in the service industry lost their jobs. Some returned when al fresco dining began in earnest, and then there was another wave of layoffs in the colder months.
“This program has given Bae Baes extra support through these dark and troubled times,” said Edward Lai, owner of Bae Baes Kitchen in downtown Pittsburgh. “The only way out is together and through fellowship.”
New restaurants can apply online for the third phase of Community Takeout.
412 Food Rescue is a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit that uses an app to distribute surplus food destined for landfill to people in need. The nonprofit recently won the Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas Award. Since the organization started in 2015, the team of 10,000+ volunteer drivers has diverted more than 17 million pounds of food from landfills in western Pennsylvania.