Fixing Food Deserts – Now There’s an App for That

Areas with limited food options (commonly known as “food deserts”) pose a challenge to local government planning and health departments.  A Route Fifty article (2019-03-28) highlighted one potential food distribution solution being used in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

The article described how the Allegheny County Housing Authority has partnered with  Pittsburgh-based nonprofit 412 Food Rescue to collect edible food that is either slightly flawed or just past its sell-by (but not expiration) date and distribute it for free to housing authority residents.  Pick-up and distribution is handled by volunteers and coordinated through the “Food Rescue Hero” app.

Participating supermarkets and donating organizations use the app to notify Food Rescue when they have food ready for pickup. Food Rescue matches up the donation with a participating organization that can use or distribute it and uses the app to dispatch a volunteer driver to pick up and deliver the food. The article indicated that most transactions take about two hours.

“There are a lot of issues with the way we distribute food, and we need to understand how to actually make sure that people can access the food we’re making available,” said [412 Food Rescue co-founder and CEO Leah Lizarondo]. “Partnering with housing authorities and other sites such as daycares allows us to bring food right to where people already are.” …

The [Allegheny County] partnership began in 2015, after Bev Moore, the agency’s deputy director, approached Lizarondo at a networking event after hearing her speak about the app. The agency had previously partnered with a private food bank to operate distribution centers at several of its sites, but those were discontinued, leaving many residents without a way to obtain staple food items for their families. Lizarondo’s concept presented a unique solution, Moore thought.

The article indicated that at least 4,800 county residents receive food annually due to the app and that food insecurity for participants has decreased 90 percent.

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