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412 Food Rescue Volunteers Complete 100,000 Rescues
Also known as “Food Rescue Heroes,” more than 12,000 local volunteers use the nonprofit’s app to bring extra food from retailers and restaurants to people in need.

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania (April 6, 2021)412 Food Rescue is celebrating a new milestone: as of this month, staff and volunteers have completed 100,000 food rescues all-time. The nonprofit organization, which is powered by its proprietary Food Rescue Hero technology platform, engages thousands of local volunteer drivers to rescue surplus food from retail stores and restaurants and bring it to a site where people experiencing food insecurity can access it. To date, volunteer “Food Rescue Heroes” have rescued more than 17 million pounds of food that would otherwise have been sent to a landfill, the equivalent of 14.2 million meals. For the past year, 412 Food Rescue’s network has redistributed an average of 730,000 pounds one million pounds of food every single month.

Volunteers flooded 412 Food Rescue’s app in March and April of 2020, looking for a safe way to help their neighbors as many suffered job losses and became food insecure. The nonprofit’s team quickly worked to institute no-contact protocols, but because using the app to volunteer was already a solo activity that didn’t require gathering, more than 1,500 Pittsburghers downloaded and registered the “412 Food Rescue App” app in just the first two months of the pandemic. 

As some regular volunteers in high risk groups opted to stay home for their own safety, others, like Carol Beth and Mike Yoffee, stepped up to meet an increased need for food. The Yoffees added Food Rescue Hero volunteering to their weekly routine in May 2020, and since then have completed 397 rescues, including home delivery routes. “The 412 Food Rescue app makes it easy for us to dovetail our volunteering with our very busy and unpredictable work schedules,” they explain. “We have been very comfortable with the no-contact process developed during the COVID-19 pandemic. It has allowed us to continue giving back to our community in a way that works well for everyone.” 

412 Food Rescue also introduced several new ways to feed the community, as one in five American households became food insecure. “Our velocity of rescues has only been accelerated during the pandemic thanks to new programs like Home Delivery, Community Takeout, and the USDA’s Farmers to Families food boxes,” says 412 Food Rescue’s Chief Operating Officer David Primm. “New and old Food Rescue Heroes continue to answer the call to help their food insecure neighbors.” Prior to the pandemic — from January 2019 through February 2020 — 412 Food Rescue averaged 1,900 individual rescues each month. From March 2020 through March 2021, the monthly average rose dramatically to 2,900 rescues, which reflects a 50% increase.

Sara Swaney, VP of Advancement, also credits 412 Food Rescue’s growing network of food donor partners for continuously making surplus food available to rescue. “We would not have reached 100,000 rescues without our scheduled weekly rescues from retail donors like Giant Eagle and Brueggers, as well as large donations from distributors like Consumers Produce and Paragon.” 

As the network of volunteer drivers and food donors grew, the 412 Food Rescue team was hard at work updating their technology to better coordinate more people. The organization worked with Bounteous to build out a new Google Analytics dashboard, which allowed the logistics team to view real-time volunteer engagement details. “Automated insights with Google Analytics opened our eyes to a whole new set of data,” says Swaney. “This technology has freed up our limited staff time to grow our strategy and increase our activities in the community.”

Those interested in becoming a “Food Rescue Hero” volunteer can register on the 412 Food Rescue app, available on the Apple App Store and Google Play. Food retailers, restaurants, and other businesses with surplus food can become food donors by visiting 412 Food Rescue’s website.