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Food recovery platform adapts to satisfy quarantine needs

Tech nonprofit Food Rescue Hero is employing its 10,000-strong network of volunteer drivers to provide 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 to meet quarantine needs

As the COVID-19 crisis increases the likelihood of food insecurity, the necessity for social isolation can be making it tougher for vulnerable individuals to reach food assistance. Hearteningly, we’re seeing an increase in the number of people seeking to volunteer in their communities. The challenge is always 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 that.

Door-to-door food aid

Food Rescue Hero is definitely an international tech nonprofit based in Pittsburgh as well as serves Cleveland, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Northern Virginia, Los Angeles, and very soon, Vancouver. Over days gone by 5yrs, we’ve used our eponymous app to build the entire world’s largest network of volunteer food delivery drivers – 10,000 strong and growing. The network was originally made to prevent food waste by delivering surplus from grocers and restaurants to nonprofits that serve people experiencing food insecurity.

food delivery

Now that this pandemic has isolated a number of our most vulnerable community members, we’re testing a fresh programme to supply 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 using the information we gathered to gradually expand the intend 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, using a goal release a nationally sometime this season.

A model developed for emergencies

We’ve been capable 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 those of ride-sharing companies to coordinate a large, distributed network of volunteer drivers. In traditional types of retail food donation, regularly scheduled delivery trucks move food from donors to food pantries; if a truck in time breaks down, lots of the pantries that rely on it won’t manage to get thier delivery for that 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 the perfect chance of website visitors to serve others safely during these times.

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

Thinking away from food shelf

delivering food to shop

One particularly vulnerable group we’ve identified is school children inside the free and reduced lunch programme inside our home base of Pittsburgh. Like many more nationally, the Pittsburgh public school district responded to school closures by quickly making take-home meals available on-site to students during these programmes. For many, however, this relief is just not accessible because of the distance off their homes to get sites – some children would need to walk an hour or so to have lunch. To make sure that these kids don’t fall from the cracks, we’ve been attempting to bring meals on the one spot we understand kids could possibly get to each day: their limo 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 towards the local economy. The effort, made in collaboration along with other local organisations and community members (along with support from actor and Pittsburgh area native Michael Keaton), would have been a pilot run. Now that we've proof-of-concept, we’ll advocate to the model in college districts across the country.

People helping people

Amidst the uncertainty and fear on this time, our organisation has seen, not a dip, but a blast at the in new volunteers. Nationwide in March, over 1,500 new volunteers downloaded the app, which reflects a 300 percent increase in new volunteer sign-ups compared to an average month. We’ve also seen a spike in requests off their cities to generate our app accessible to assist with the swell of volunteers who want to make sure that seniors have food. 

Over the past 5 years, our volunteers have completed more than 90,000 rescues and delivered more than 12 million meals to folks who are required them.

Because driving food requires no congregation or groups, this can be a perfect opportunity for website visitors to serve others safely during these times. While maintaining physical distance, people are finding new methods to bond.

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

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