Food rescue group expands to Washington, four other counties

September 13, 2017
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Jennifer England
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Farm Aid 2017 is poised to plow into Washington County. The annual concert, benefiting family farmers nationwide, will begin at noon Saturday at KeyBank Pavilion in Hanover Township.

Sweet sounds won’t be the only things rising from the venue off Route 18 this weekend. The launch of 724 Food Rescue will occur Sunday.

This new endeavor is an offshoot of 412 Food Rescue, whose mission – according to its website – “is to prevent perfectly good food from entering the waste stream.”

“Food rescue is a universal need,” said Jennifer England, director of operations for the organization, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. “We waste 40 percent of the food we produce in a year, and people are going hungry. If we stop wasting food, we can stop hunger.”

That objective is why the East Liberty-based firm and Farm Aid have partnered for Saturday’s event at the pavilion. The food rescue units collect surplus items from events or donations from small stores, grocery and restaurant chains, urban farms and other nonprofits, then distribute food to those in need.

“Volunteers may pick up food at Giant Eagle and take it to a senior high rise,” England said. “This involves a whole lot of people taking a little time to help people.”

The 412 and 724 organizations – based on area codes – have partnered with American HealthCare Group, which serves families and seniors in affordable housing communities. Both units also accept financial donations.

The 412 group was founded in 2015 by Leah Lizarondo and Gisele Fetterman. It basically serves Allegheny County, although England said “we’ve dabbled in surrounding counties.” The 724 group is composed of four counties that surround Allegheny – Washington, Westmoreland, Beaver and Butler – plus Fayette.

There was a need, said Lizarondo, the Food Rescue CEO. She said in a news release: “We received so many calls from people asking us to expand the service to the 724 area, calls from people wanting to help, calls from people needing help, and calls from donors wanting to help their communities.”

Michael Washowich understands that need. He is executive director of Westmoreland County Housing Authority, a founding nonprofit partner of 724.

“Many of our residents, both families and elderly, know true hunger and do without adequate food for portions of each month,” he said in a statement.”With 724 Food Rescue’s generous donors and volunteers, that can change.”

Four food purveyors have agreed to make regular donations of surplus food to the 724 rescue: Giant Eagle, Sysco Foods, Aldo’s Foods and Waypoint Foods.

Surplus food items from the concert will be collected Sunday and distributed at the Burgettstown Apartments.

At first, 724 Food Rescue will have eight donor locations and 10 nonprofit partners to serve approximately 122,000 people in need in five counties.

Officials at 412 Food Rescue say that over the past two years, it has prevented 1.8 million pounds of good food from ending up in landfills. It is involved with more than 250 food retailers, 300 nonprofit partners and about 1,500 volunteers.

For more information or to inquire about volunteering, visit 412foodrescue.org or call 412-407-5287.

Rick Shrum joined the Observer-Reporter as a reporter in 2012, after serving as a section editor, sports reporter and copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rick has won seven individual writing awards, including two Golden Quills.

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