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Food recovery platform adapts to satisfy quarantine needs

Tech nonprofit Food Rescue Hero is applying its 10,000-strong network of volunteer drivers to offer emergency food to those in the US relying on the coronavirus pandemic. Here, CEO and Co-Founder Leah Lizarondo gives an overview of the organisation’s relief contributions.

Food recovery platform adapts in order to meet quarantine needs

As the COVID-19 crisis raises the probability of food insecurity, the necessity for social isolation can also be making it more difficult for vulnerable website visitors to reach food assistance. Hearteningly, we’re seeing an rise in the volume of people seeking to volunteer in their communities. The challenge is usually to harness this swell of engagement safely and effectively. My organisation, Food Rescue Hero, has become capable to adapt our extensive food recovery network to do exactly that.

Door-to-door food aid

Food Rescue Hero can be an international tech nonprofit situated in Pittsburgh plus serves Cleveland, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Northern Virginia, Los Angeles, and very soon, Vancouver. Over earlier times five years, we’ve used our eponymous app to construct the world’s largest network of volunteer food delivery drivers – 10,000 strong and growing. The network was originally designed to prevent food waste by delivering surplus from grocery stores and restaurants to nonprofits that serve people experiencing food insecurity.

food delivery

Now how the pandemic has isolated a number of our most vulnerable community members, we’re testing a new programme to offer no-contact home deliveries. Volunteers bring donations directly to households in need, all while following CDC guidelines to make sure everyone’s safety. An initial pilot run of this door-to-door programme delivered emergency food to 175 households in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny and Beaver Counties in late March, and we’re now with all the information we gathered to gradually expand the want to thousands more homes.

We’re undertaking this project in partnership with nonprofits including food banks, food pantries and senior agencies. Once the pilot period in Greater Pittsburgh is done, the protocol and features will be rolled out in most cities that this Food Rescue Hero app serves, having a goal to produce nationally sometime this season.

A model developed for emergencies

We’ve been capable of respond nimbly for this crisis because our network is structured to adapt to emergencies. Focusing on the unique logistical challenges of retail food recovery, we use a platform similar to people of ride-sharing companies to coordinate a large, distributed network of volunteer drivers. In traditional styles of retail food donation, regularly scheduled delivery trucks move food from donors to food pantries; if a truck stops working, many of the pantries that depend on it won’t manage to get thier delivery with the day. With the Food Rescue Hero network, however, a back-up driver is simply push notification away. 

Because driving food requires no congregation or groups, this is actually the perfect chance of website visitors to serve others safely of these times.

Because in the platform’s flexibility, our service level stands at 99 percent, missing merely one percent of available rescues. Over the past five years, our volunteers have completely finished over 90,000 rescues and delivered more than 12 million meals to people who are required them. And at this time, more and more people than ever are in need.

Thinking beyond your food shelf

delivering food to shop

One particularly vulnerable group we’ve identified is young children within the free and reduced lunch programme inside our home base of Pittsburgh. Like many others nationally, the Pittsburgh public school district taken care of immediately school closures by quickly making take-home meals available on-site to students during these programmes. For many, however, this relief just isn't accessible because in the distance using their homes to pick up sites – some children would have to walk one hour to have lunch. To be sure that these kids don’t fall through the cracks, we’ve been working to bring meals towards the one spot we understand kids could get to each day: their school bus stop.

On 27 March 2020, Food Rescue Hero distributed 500 meals to bus stops in food insecure and unwalkable neighbourhoods. The meals were made by local restaurants, giving a lift on the local economy. The effort, stated in collaboration with other local organisations and community members (with support from actor and Pittsburgh area native Michael Keaton), would be a pilot run. Now that we've proof-of-concept, we’ll advocate for your model in class districts across the country.

People helping people

Amidst the uncertainty and fear with this time, our organisation has seen, not a dip, but an outburst in new volunteers. Nationwide in March, more than 1,500 new volunteers downloaded the app, which reflects a 300 percent rise in new volunteer sign-ups in comparison to a normal month. We’ve also seen a spike in requests using their company cities to make our app available to assist with the swell of volunteers who want to make certain that seniors have food. 

Over the past 5yrs, our volunteers have completed greater than 90,000 rescues and delivered a lot more than 12 million meals to people who are required them.

Because driving food requires no congregation or groups, this is actually the perfect potential for people to serve others safely in these times. While maintaining physical distance, everyone is finding new solutions to get together.

We always envisioned Food Rescue Hero as a movement. The network is coordinated by technology, but it’s powered by communities – with the goodwill of ordinary individuals who want to generate the world a tad bit more livable for individuals. In the facial skin with this pandemic, there’s feeling of helplessness. But there’s still much we are able to do for each other. Our platform gives people a good way to help their neighbours.

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