Food recovery platform adapts to fulfill quarantine needs

Tech nonprofit Food Rescue Hero is using its 10,000-strong network of volunteer drivers to deliver emergency food to people inside the US influenced by the coronavirus pandemic. Here, CEO and Co-Founder Leah Lizarondo gives a summary of the organisation’s relief contributions.

Food recovery platform adapts to satisfy quarantine needs

As the COVID-19 crisis boosts the chance of food insecurity, the requirement of social isolation is also rendering it harder for vulnerable individuals to reach food assistance. Hearteningly, we’re seeing an boost in the volume of people trying to volunteer within their communities. The challenge would be to harness this swell of engagement safely and effectively. My organisation, Food Rescue Hero, may be in a position to adapt our extensive food recovery network to accomplish just that.

Door-to-door food aid

Food Rescue Hero can be an international tech nonprofit based in Pittsburgh and in addition serves Cleveland, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Northern Virginia, Los Angeles, and soon, Vancouver. Over yesteryear five years, we’ve used our eponymous app to construct the globe’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 supermarkets and restaurants to nonprofits that serve people experiencing food insecurity.

food delivery

Now how the pandemic has isolated quite a few most vulnerable community members, we’re testing a new programme to deliver no-contact home deliveries. Volunteers bring donations right to households short of funds, all while following CDC guidelines to be sure everyone’s safety. An initial pilot run with 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 for example food banks, food pantries and senior agencies. Once the pilot period in Greater Pittsburgh is done, the protocol and features will likely be rolled out in all cities the Food Rescue Hero app serves, having a goal to produce nationally sometime in 2010.

A model built for emergencies

We’ve been able to respond nimbly to the current crisis because our network is structured to adapt to emergencies. Focusing on the unique logistical challenges of retail food recovery, we make use of a platform similar to the people of ride-sharing companies to coordinate a big, distributed network of volunteer drivers. In traditional models of retail food donation, regularly scheduled delivery trucks move food from donors to food pantries; in case a truck stops working, most of the pantries that be determined by it won’t acquire delivery for your day. With the Food Rescue Hero network, however, a back-up driver is simply a push notification away. 

Because driving food requires no congregation or groups, this is actually the perfect opportunity for visitors to serve others safely over these times.

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

Thinking away from food shelf

delivering food to shop

One particularly vulnerable group we’ve identified is young children within the free and reduced lunch programme in our home base of Pittsburgh. Like many more nationally, the Pittsburgh public school district replied to school closures by quickly making take-home meals available on-site to students in these programmes. For many, however, this relief isn't accessible because from the distance using their homes to post sites – some children must walk an hour to have lunch. To be sure that these kids don’t fall over the cracks, we’ve been attempting to bring meals towards the one spot we all know kids will get to every single 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 prepared by local restaurants, giving a lift for the local economy. The effort, manufactured in collaboration with 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 around the country.

People helping people

Amidst the uncertainty and fear of the time, our organisation has seen, not just a dip, but an increase in new volunteers. Nationwide in March, a lot more than 1,500 new volunteers downloaded the app, which reflects a 300 percent increase in new volunteer sign-ups compared to a typical month. We’ve also seen a spike in requests off their cities to produce our app offered to benefit the swell of volunteers who want to be sure that seniors have food. 

Over the past five-years, our volunteers have completed greater than 90,000 rescues and delivered a lot more than 12 million meals to individuals who need them.

Because driving food requires no congregation or groups, this can be a perfect potential for website visitors to serve others safely over these times. While maintaining physical distance, everyone is finding new approaches to bond.

We always envisioned Food Rescue Hero as a movement. The network is coordinated by technology, but it’s powered by communities – by the goodwill of ordinary those who want to generate the planet a bit more livable for people. In the face with this pandemic, there’s feeling of helplessness. But there’s still a lot we could do per other. Our platform gives people a secure method to help their neighbours.

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