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You are familiar with the stats, but they’re worth repeating. In the U.S., we throw away 30 to 40 percent of our food while nearly 50 million Americans live in food insecure households. Healthcare expenses resulting from hunger and food insecurity cost the U.S. economy about $160 billion a year. 

The impact on the environment is even more significant. As food waste breaks down anaerobically, it releases methane gas into the atmosphere. (Methane gas is 21 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2.) The United Nation Food and Agriculture Organization stated that food waste represents more greenhouse gas emissions than any country in the world except for China and the United States.

With the big picture in mind, people are acting locally to address the waste-hunger paradox—a critical component of regional food system innovation. Efforts involve a broad spectrum of parties, from public and private enterprises to non-profit organizations to volunteers. At the heart of these initiatives is the innovative application of technology.

In her article for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette entitled “412 Food Rescue mobilizes volunteers with Uber-like app,” Dana Cizmas overviews how the Food Rescue Hero app from 412 Food Rescue is helping volunteers “rescue” food deemed un-sellable and distribute it to shelters and charities.

Touted as the only app in the U.S. that works like Uber, Food Rescue Hero shows both surpluses and needs. Local restaurants and grocery stores provide details on what they have to donate and where it can be picked up. Non-profit organizations communicate their locations and needs. At any time, a volunteer driver can look at the app to determine which pick-up/drop-off will be most convenient. A built-in navigation system directs them through the process. The recipient closes the loop by signing in to the app and marking the donation as delivered.

The Food Rescue Hero app is available of iTunes and Google Play for free. As Cizmas reports, it has helped 412 Food Rescue rally over 1,000 volunteers and rescue 1 million pounds of food in just 20 months. Donors are sidestepping waste and receiving tax incentives. Rescuers are making meaningful connections with recipients. Nonprofits are alleviating hunger. Along the way, social media posts inspire others to get involved in the cause.

The goal of 412 Food Rescue co-founder and CEO Leah Lizarondo has been to find an innovative way to make the food recovery process efficient and sustainable. Like every viable solution, the organization’s app made it to the finish line with the help of investors. Cizmas notes that Food Rescue Hero is the first phase of the Food RescueX technology platform. Lizardono’s ultimate goal is to expand nationally.

Pittsburgh may be the first city to put the Uber approach to work, but they are not alone in the fight to end food waste and hunger. Here are just a few of the many recent success stories:

Stay tuned for more insights on the innovators and investors bringing about change.