Eight years after co-founding 412 Food Rescue and founding Food Rescue Hero, Leah Lizarondo is working with the Board of Directors to find a successor to bring the organization to its next chapter.
To the 412 Food Rescue & Food Rescue Hero Community,
As we enter this season of change, I am writing to share that after eight years of working with you to grow 412 Food Rescue and Food Rescue Hero, I am stepping down as CEO by Spring of 2023. I will continue to serve Food Rescue Hero in a to-be-determined capacity. I’m committed to leading both organizations until a successor is found and fully transitioned.
Transitioning from its first Executive Director is a complex process for any organization, so the board and I have been thoughtfully preparing for this moment. I have much gratitude to the board for their stewardship and leadership. Agreeing to serve on a board is an exceptional act of commitment to an organization’s mission, and I have been fortunate to have their guidance during my tenure.
The opportunity to grow 412 Food Rescue and Food Rescue Hero has been an enormous privilege. I feel tremendous gratitude toward Pittsburgh’s philanthropic community for seeding and supporting this work, allowing us to prove its potential and pave the way for others in the philanthropic community to invest in an envelope-pushing idea.
I still remember the first time we launched the app and saw rescues being claimed one by one—looking at our screens with a measure of disbelief but also joy that people were showing up for each other—using an app. (And to date, you’ve done over 400,000 rescues!) I also remember the elation of winning those first pitch competitions we participated in. From the American Heart Association’s Urban Health Accelerator in Baltimore, MD in 2017 to the global WE Empower UN SDG pitch competition in New York City, I was so proud to represent you and be your voice. And finally, each time I meet you, our food rescue heroes, seeing the service that you wholeheartedly give, seeing your own joy in doing so, has continuously inspired me.
Our work together has enabled the redirection of over 100 million pounds of perfectly good food from going to landfills to feeding those who are experiencing food insecurity – in over 25 cities in North America, with over 34,000 Food Rescue Heroes registered on the Food Rescue Hero app. This resilient, reliable and growing volunteer driver network allowed us to launch Home Delivery at the height of the COVID crisis, where it was, for many, the only way to access food support.
Doing this work with an exceptional team (an A-team through and through) and with YOU, our community, has realized an impact of which I am enormously grateful and proud. While change can present challenges, 412 Food Rescue and Food Rescue Hero are at an exceptional juncture and poised to take the next leap in growth.
During this transition period, Jen England, our very first employee, has been serving as interim COO. Jen has led the establishment of our multi-county food recovery network in the Greater Pittsburgh Region and is now leading what is essentially a multi-country network of food
recovery organizations using the Food Rescue Hero platform, moving steadily toward our goal of serving 100 cities by 2030. She is also a leader in advocacy, taking the helm of our work with other food waste prevention and food recovery organizations.
Next year, we will be crossing some major milestones in my family and I look forward to spending some time going back to visit the Philippines. I am also looking forward to continuing work in technology and climate, inspired by what this organization has shown is possible.
It has been one of the great honors of my life to grow 412 Food Rescue and Food Rescue Hero. My gratitude to our team, our food rescue heroes, and all of our community is unbounded.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Fri., Oct. 7, 2022) — Leah Lizarondo, co-founder of 412 Food Rescue and founder of Food Rescue Hero, has announced that she will step down as the CEO of both organizations, roles she has held since 2015, by the spring of 2023. This is a move that she and the Board of Directors have thoughtfully been planning for some time. For Food Rescue Hero, the technology platform piloted by 412 Food Rescue, Lizarondo plans to remain involved in a to-be-determined capacity.
Since its launch in 2015, 412 Food Rescue has become a leader in the food recovery space. Its app, Food Rescue Hero, is now used in over 25 cities in the U.S. and Canada and has redirected over 100 million pounds of perfectly good surplus food from going to waste. Over 34,000 volunteers are registered on the app, which has been called the “Uber of Food Rescue” and the “Doordash for Good,” making it the world’s largest on-demand, volunteer food transport network.
Lizarondo has led the organization’s growth from three employees to its current staff of 40, and introduced innovative programs such as the Good Food Project — a zero waste kitchen in Millvale that transforms donated food into ready-to-eat meals — and the UglyCSA program, which works with local farmers to distribute “unsellable” but perfectly good produce to a growing number of Pittsburgh households each year.
In 2020, during the height of COVID-19 lockdowns, 412 Food Rescue introduced a Home Delivery function to its app. In a pilot phase since March 2020, volunteers have delivered 150,000 pounds of nutritious food to 1,000 households in Pittsburgh. Now, Home Delivery is built into the Food Rescue Hero app, available for use by partner organizations across the continent, changing the way food assistance groups are able to reach those who are most vulnerable.
Lizarondo’s work with 412 Food Rescue and Food Rescue Hero has earned international attention. In 2020, Food Rescue Hero was named one of Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas and was the only nonprofit to receive a CES Innovation Award from the Consumer Technology Association. Lizarondo was named to the 2022 Grist 50 list and won Vital Voices’ 2020 Global Leadership Award, which introduced Food Rescue Hero to celebrity users such as Elizabeth Banks. The technology has been featured in outlets such as NPR, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire, Nonprofit Quarterly and the Stanford Social Innovation Review.
Lizarondo said, “I believe that innovation should serve everyone, and it has been a personal goal to show that we can utilize technology for good, for its highest use, to respond to our biggest challenges. The opportunity to realize the vision for Food Rescue Hero has been an unparalleled privilege. This is logistics, this is tech, and it is movement-building with all three combined, creating a new model to solve the related problems of waste, food insecurity and climate change. Food Rescue Hero is making a difference internationally, but it is truly a testament to how Pittsburgh’s philanthropic community shares our affinity for innovation. It’s incredible to see that this technology, seeded right here in Pittsburgh, is making a difference in the world, garnering support from leaders in food, technology and social innovation.”
She adds, “Ultimately, what makes Food Rescue Hero is the people who power it. In just a few short years, thousands of people from all walks of life have generously, repeatedly and reliably (responding with a 99% success rate) donated their time and energy to ensure their neighbors have enough to eat. I leave this position knowing that we have started an unstoppable movement, and that people will continue to come together when it counts.”
Beth Slagle is the Chair of 412 Food Rescue’s Board of Directors, which will be searching for the organization’s next leader to continue growing 412 Food Rescue’s impact locally and continue the Food Rescue Hero technology platform’s path to 100 cities around the world by the year 2030.
Slagle said, “Over the past eight years, I have been so proud to watch Leah lead the team to scale 412 Food Rescue — and its innovative tech platform, Food Rescue Hero — from an idea into a movement of thousands of people across North America. Her discipline and tenacious commitment to a vision have transformed the landscape of food access in Pittsburgh, and this new model is now spreading around the country and the world. Leah’s leadership has been nothing short of transformative.”
Slagle adds, “Leah and the board recognize the complexity of founder transitions and the extraordinary opportunity it presents. This is a unique leadership role—driving a technology and logistics organization, a hunger-relief network and a growing global movement. We have been working together internally for some time to prepare for this juncture and will announce the firm that will be leading the search in the coming weeks.”
During this transition, Jen England, who has been with the organization since day one, has been serving as interim COO of 412 Food Rescue. Jen has led the establishment and growth of the organization’s food recovery network and Food Rescue Hero partner organizations across North America, building a new network of food recovery organizations working toward collective impact.
“I’m looking forward to the next chapter of Food Rescue Hero and 412 Food Rescue, both of which are at such exciting phases – primed to make the next leap in their evolutions — and I’m committed to serving this organization until a successor is found and fully transitioned,” says Lizarondo. “Next year, we will be crossing some major milestones in my family and I look forward to spending some time visiting the Philippines. I am also looking forward to continuing work in technology and climate, inspired by what this organization has shown is possible.”