I went on a date with Andrew McCutchen last week. By “date,” I mean I rode in a truck that he graciously and generously donated to 412 Food Rescue.
When Cutch heard 412 Food Rescue was raising money to buy a refrigerated truck to safely haul and deliver fresh food to those in need all over Pittsburgh, he was like, “Guys. Save what money you’ve raised. I’ve got the truck.” Reason #52092580 to love the Pittsburgh Pirates Organization and Mr. Andrew McCutchen.
So now you’re like shut up and tell me what 412 Food Rescue is. Here ya go:
Founded in March 2015, 412 Food Rescue is the only Pittsburgh organization that directly addresses the fact that we waste 40% of our food while 1 in 7 go hungry. 412 Food Rescue and its growing corps of over 2,000 volunteers in the Pittsburgh region have recovered over 1 million pounds of food from over 200 retailers and donated to over 250 nonprofits.
40% of our food is wasted?! That’s insane! And “wasted” just means thrown away–it’s GOOD FOOD! While on my “date,” I helped pick up, load, haul, and deliver numerous pallets of perfectly good, healthy food. It was donated for several different reasons:
- It was approaching sell-by dates and need to be used within the day or a few days
- It wasn’t up to consumers’ “cosmetic standards” for food – consumers want the perfect apple, tomato etc.
- It needed to be cooked or eaten that day or within a few days – e.g. yellow bananas and other ripe fruit, day old bread that are still good, vegetables that are ready to be cooked today or in a few days. All perfectly good food that I wanted to shove down my gullet
I gotta tell ya: riding around with delicious food all day really makes a girl hungry. There was barely time for a potty break let alone a snack, though. Me and my new buddy Daniel the Driver took to the road and drove from Millvale to Imperial to Blawnox to Sharpsburg to Northern Heights and back again with only one thing on our minds: feed the people.
I was really excited to meet some of the recipients and witness their communities working together to unpack and sort the food. I held back tears as Blawnox resident, Jan, expressed her gratitude:
We’re all running low on supplies. We ask each other, ‘Do you have any bread left?’ and if we can, we trade. Maybe some oranges for bread or some pasta for meat. We wouldn’t have [anything] until May 3rd if it weren’t for you guys and this food.
Sharpsburg Senior Center Manager, Debbie, has put together programs that help feed the body, mind, and spirit of her guests, many whom are veterans. In addition to running the facilities (which is in a refurbished church with the coolest architecture and details I’ve ever seen!), Debbie and her crew make weekly home-bound visits, and have served up over 10,000 pounds of food to those in the area!
There are a handful of employees who make scheduled 412 trips throughout the week, BUT IT’S NOT ENOUGH. People like Jan and Debbie’s guests might only get a delivery from 412 once or twice a month. We can do better, Pittsburgh.
In November 2016, 412 Food Rescue launched its app “Food Rescue Hero” to coordinate its volunteer driver network. This “Uber of Food Rescue” was covered in NPR in February–leading to over 200 inquiries from other cities on how they can bring the same model of food recovery in their region. PITTSBURGH IS A PIONEER in the food rescue game. It’s soooo easy to be part of this venture:
- Download app for iOS or Android
- Learn how it works by watching this tutorial
- Help those who need it most
- Pat self on back
- Rinse, repeat
As an added bonus to volunteering, you might be so lucky to meet people like my new pal Ms. Dee, who stormed the food truck in a t-shirt that read “I’m here to f*ck shit up.” I asked if she could get me one of those shirts and we bonded instantly. She smiled and winked while shouting orders to the throngs of people who emerged to help, and I marveled at the efficiency of her group. Ana, who had just gotten off of work, came over to unload the truck and praised Jesus every time a box of fresh fruit or meats was moved off the truck. Ana told me how she planned to prepare the butternut squash, and vowed to get “some of these people eating healthy foods–there’s more to life than French fries!” and she shot a look at a man who pretended not to hear her. Team work makes the dream work.
In less than two years, 412 Food Rescue has been recognized nationally as a leader in food recovery. That’s in less than two years. Do you know what that tells me? Pittsburgh terribly needed 412 Food Rescue, and there are cities across the country that do, too. So maybe you’re reading this and thinking, “I don’t live in the Pittsburgh area, how can I help?” Well, you can move here because we’re awesome or you can find a way to make a difference in your community. Follow #EndFoodWaste on social media for more, or connect with #412FoodRescue anywhere on the web:
- Facebook: http://bit.ly/2nTiW6L
- Twitter: http://bit.ly/2oRkEmY
- Instagram: http://bit.ly/2oR0rxF
- YouTube: http://bit.ly/2nPjU2m
Go forth, download. Be a helper. Serve your community. Go on a date with Andrew McCutchen. But don’t mention my name; he’ll get all embarrassed and probably act like he doesn’t know me. That’s so Cutch.