A Tech-Driven Approach to End Hunger and Food Waste
COMMENTARY

July 30, 2019 by Leah Lizarondo
Food advocates are encouraging retailers to offer less than perfect produce, such as scarred citrus, squat apples and misshapen kiwi. (Eric Paul Zamora/Fresno Bee/TNS)

Nearly each day reports chronicle the catastrophic ramifications of climate change, as well as the effects of poverty and hunger on growing children.

The National Institutes of Health just released a study explaining that eating an unprocessed diet triggers an individual’s body to produce an appetite-suppressing hormone, while lowering the level of a hunger-inducing hormone. Furthermore, documented research shows that a highly processed diet increases the risk for a variety of cancers and other significant health issues – and can even contribute to an early death.

Bottom line: Our bodies were designed to recognize real food. Eating processed foods causes overeating and obesity – and worse.

Nevertheless, individuals living in food deserts and in poverty cannot help but consume bad foods. While it is clear that unhealthy diets can harm or even kill us, some persons and communities do not have access to healthy, affordable options.

One in seven Americans is food insecure. One in five children often go hungry. That said, 97 percent of wasted food goes into a landfill – releasing methane gas, which is much more dangerous than carbon dioxide.

Food Rescue Hero, first piloted in Pittsburgh, is an app created to leverage technology-driven partnerships across the nation in an effort to combat some of the world’s greatest problems – from hunger and food waste to climate change.

Our food-rescue technology effectively empowers volunteers – referred to as Food Rescue Heroes – to get food into the hands of those who need it by connecting them with food retailers and restaurants that would otherwise be tossing away perfectly edible items nearing an arbitrary sell-by date.

As of June 2019, Food Rescue Heroes have rescued more than 6.5 million pounds of food.

What’s more, more than 13,000 people have downloaded the Food Rescue Hero app – volunteers are collectively rescuing 250,000 pounds of food each quarter (one million pounds/year!).

Launched in 2016, Food Rescue Hero is currently active in San Francisco, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland. As part of our 20 Cities by 2020 campaign, our proven, scalable technology is also coming to places like Northern Virginia and Los Angeles.

As co-founder and CEO, I can say that Food Rescue Hero’s approach is life-changing, especially considering that, in the United States alone, 40 percent of food goes to waste.

We have eliminated hunger in Pittsburgh – our flagship city – as our volunteers continue to bring healthy food to persons who would otherwise go hungry or only have access to junk food.

And that is just the beginning.

The amount of rescued food and meals served will grow exponentially as more people step up to volunteer in our existing cities – and as new partnerships take us into new cities across America.

While there are plenty of food rescue organizations out there (and, to be sure, I applaud each and every meal saved and delivered to someone in need), Food Rescue Hero is the only technology with a model capable of scaling to the level of wiping out hunger in the area it serves.

I know the power and potential of technology, and I believe in good people – when these two pillars effectively marry, possibilities become endless.

Food Rescue Hero CEO and Co-Founder Leah Lizarondo is an active advocate for tech for good. She trained at the Natural Gourmet Institute in NYC and received her Certification in Plant-based Nutrition from Cornell University. Her work has been featured in national media, including NPR, Oprah.com, and GOOD Magazine online. Learn more at: https://412foodrescue.org/.

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