This App Helps Volunteers Deliver Surplus Food to Hungry Households

Food Rescue Hero provides a revolutionary transport model to the food waste problem.

girl with food rescue delivery

Food Rescue Hero

The United States faces a truly bizarre problem. On one hand, it wastes more than a third of food produced for human consumption, much of it ending up in landfills because it doesn't meet aesthetic standards or it has passed an arbitrary expiration date. On the other hand, one in five Americans is hungry, unable to afford, access, or prepare proper meals on a regular basis – and this number has gone up significantly from one in nine pre-pandemic.

At the same time, all of us together face an impending climate crisis, where an increase in greenhouse gas production is driving the warming of our planet – and guess what? Decomposing food happens to add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, so not only are we wasting resources and failing to feed hungry people, but we're also driving the destruction of our planet. So, food waste truly is what Copia founder Komal Ahmad once described as "the world's dumbest problem." 

How to Solve It? That's an Ongoing Dilemma

There are a number of interesting companies and initiatives that are working hard to tackle this problem, but a big part of the challenge is logistical – figuring out how to get surplus food from point A to where it's needed at point B before it goes bad. 

One particularly intriguing effort is called Food Rescue Hero. Calling itself "the only food rescue technology that is also an operating food rescue organization," this model is an app that connects volunteers to urban retailers with surplus food and tells them where to drop it off. This could be a household in need or a non-profit serving people experiencing food insecurity. Volunteers receive an alert through the app when a pickup is ready and usually have a two-hour window to complete it. Ninety-nine percent of pickups are completed by volunteers, with remaining ones done by staff.

food rescue hero app
A mother does a food rescue with her three daughters. Food Rescue Hero

Some volunteers choose to work weekly, while others accept pickups only when convenient. Food Rescue Hero told Treehugger that one super-engaged volunteer, Vincent Petti, has singlehandedly made 1,500 rescues in Pittsburgh (where the app was created and piloted). Families like to get involved, too. It's a great way to teach children about the problems of food waste and food insecurity and show them how to take meaningful action to fight it. 

"In order to tackle these big, important challenges like hunger and food waste, we have to enable and motivate everyone to take part,” says Leah Lizarondo, Food Rescue Hero’s founder and CEO. “When we do food rescues as a family, we’re teaching our kids just how much power each of us has to create change – to be a hero.”  

Food Rescue Hero quotes some parents who believe the experience has been profoundly beneficial for their kids. One mom in Pittsburgh said, "Even though they have never worried about our pantry being empty, these rescues allow them to realize that it is a real fear for many in our community. I think that it increases their capacity for empathy.” 

milk collection
Little girls doing a milk rescue. Food Rescue Hero

Since launching in 2016, the Food Rescue Hero app has redirected an estimated 40 million pounds of good food and mitigated millions of pounds of CO2 emissions. It has expanded beyond its pilot location in Pittsburgh to 10 partners operating in 12 cities, and it hopes to be in 100 cities by 2030. You can be a part of that spread by downloading the app's guide to starting a food rescue in your own city. Learn more about how it works in the video below.

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