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Food recovery platform adapts in order to meet quarantine needs

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

Food recovery platform adapts to fulfill quarantine needs

As the COVID-19 crisis raises the likelihood of food insecurity, the requirement for social isolation can be rendering it more difficult for vulnerable visitors to reach food assistance. Hearteningly, we’re seeing an rise in the number of people seeking to volunteer of their communities. The challenge is to harness this swell of engagement safely and effectively. My organisation, Food Rescue Hero, has been in a position to adapt our extensive food recovery network to do that.

Door-to-door food aid

Food Rescue Hero is an international tech nonprofit situated in Pittsburgh and also serves Cleveland, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Northern Virginia, Los Angeles, and soon, Vancouver. Over days gone by five-years, we’ve used our eponymous app to create the globe’s largest network of volunteer food delivery drivers – 10,000 strong and growing. The network was originally built to prevent food waste by delivering surplus from supermarkets and restaurants to nonprofits that serve people experiencing food insecurity.

food delivery

Now that this pandemic has isolated many of our 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 ensure 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 while using the information we gathered to gradually expand the plan to thousands more homes.

We’re undertaking this project in partnership with nonprofits like food banks, food pantries and senior agencies. Once the pilot period in Greater Pittsburgh is finished, the protocol and features will be rolled out in all of the cities that this Food Rescue Hero app serves, having a goal to release nationally sometime this coming year.

A model built for emergencies

We’ve been able to 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 make use of a platform similar to people of ride-sharing companies to coordinate a sizable, distributed network of volunteer drivers. In traditional types of retail food donation, regularly scheduled delivery trucks move food from donors to food pantries; if your truck breaks down, a lot of the pantries that rely on it won’t obtain delivery for that 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 potential for website visitors to serve others safely in these times.

Because in the platform’s flexibility, our service level stands at 99 percent, missing merely one percent of obtainable rescues. Over days gone by 5yrs, our volunteers have completed a lot more than 90,000 rescues and delivered a lot more than 12 million meals to the people who require them. And at this time, more and more people than ever before are in need of assistance.

Thinking outside of the food shelf

delivering food to shop

One particularly vulnerable group we’ve identified is youngsters inside free and reduced lunch programme within our home base of Pittsburgh. Like many others nationally, the Pittsburgh public school district answered school closures by quickly making take-home meals available on-site to students of these programmes. For many, however, this relief just isn't accessible because of the distance from other homes to grab sites – some children must walk an hour to obtain lunch. To be sure that these kids don’t fall with the cracks, we’ve been fitting in with bring meals on the one spot we realize kids can get to every day: their chartered bus stop.

On 27 March 2020, Food Rescue Hero distributed 500 meals to bus stops in food insecure and unwalkable neighbourhoods. The meals were served by local restaurants, giving an enhancement on the local economy. The effort, produced 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 now have proof-of-concept, we’ll advocate for your model in class districts across the country.

People helping people

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

Over yesteryear five-years, our volunteers have finished a lot more than 90,000 rescues and delivered more than 12 million meals to the people who are required them.

Because driving food requires no congregation or groups, here is the perfect chance of individuals to serve others safely over these times. While maintaining physical distance, everyone is finding new solutions to bond.

We always envisioned Food Rescue Hero being a movement. The network is coordinated by technology, but it’s powered by communities – through the goodwill of ordinary people who want to make the world a bit more livable for people. In the eye of this pandemic, there’s feeling of helplessness. But there’s still a great deal we are able to do for every other. Our platform gives people a good approach to help their neighbours.

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