With the abundance of food produced in America, have you ever wondered why so many of our fellow citizens go to bed hungry? According to a recent study, “food waste makes up about 25% of all material in landfills, more than any other single source of waste.”
That stark reality hit home during the airing of a popular food show that now dominates the airwaves. The theme of the show was to pit several celebrity chefs against each other using thousands of pounds of “surplus food”.
Surplus food, also known as “discarded food”, is considered degraded because it doesn’t look pretty enough to be sold in America’s supermarkets. According to the USDA, more than “38 million people (including 12 million children), in the United States are food insecure”…a fancy term for hungry.
Thankfully, in 2015, an innovative entrepreneur named Leah Lizarondo launched a non-profit called 412 Food Rescue, which directs and connects with thousands of local businesses around the country. It locates thousands of pounds of fresh “surplus food” available for donation by using an innovative app (created by Lizarondo), making it one of the largest volunteer-led food transport networks in the country.
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In Pittsburgh, the nonprofit 412 Food Rescue group had another issue to solve after locating hundreds of pounds of surplus food. There was no kitchen in the region that could accommodate the really large gifts coming from donors and turn them into single serve meals for the homeless. So, in 2019, the nonprofit group decided to come up with a solution by opening its own kitchen, the Good Food Project. Paying no money for food and creating zero waste, the kitchen is a model for effective food recovery and distribution.
The brilliant, yet simple concept converts raw surplus produce into healthy cooked meals, along with shelf-stable items packaged and ready to go. These meals are then distributed to nonprofit partners serving the needy.
The app, “FoodRescueHero”, is now used by over 25,000 volunteers around the country, partnering with food donors like Gordon Food Service. They may find themselves with perfectly good food that cannot be sold to supermarkets because of aesthetics or shipping delays.
Since their humble beginning, 412 Food Rescue group has over 800 food retailers within their network. They have turned roughly 70 million pounds of surplus produce into nearly 57 million hot meals, all while reducing more than 30 million pounds of CO2.
We are proud to share our 2019-2020 Impact Report!— 412 Food Rescue (@412FoodRescue) August 2, 2021
Read it here: https://t.co/JWhTbDKKrR
We can't thank our funders, food donors and nonprofit partners enough for supporting our mission AND to our amazing #FoodRescueHeroes who have made this idea possible every day – THANK YOU! pic.twitter.com/znP16cUINO
In the town of Millvale (located just on the outskirts of Pittsburgh) alone, the Good Food Project has thus far produced over 17,000 meals, over 600 meals a week, all without a penny being spent on food.
Unfortunately, surplus food isn’t only an American problem. A recent UN report revealed that household food waste in the Great White North is 20 kilograms more per capita than the United States.
“There’s food waste at every level of the supply-chain, whether it’s over-ordering, cancelled orders, the shape of the produce isn’t meeting the customer expectations, or approaching best-before dates,” a UN spokesmen stated.