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Sector leader Food Rescue Hero introduces a first-of-its-kind service to provide in-depth training to partner organizations.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (8/3/21)Food Rescue University, an educational resource for launching and growing food rescue organizations, is launching in conjunction with the start of September’s Hunger Action Month. This innovative tool is being launched by the nonprofit tech platform Food Rescue Hero. Offering in-depth courses based on the successes of Food Rescue Hero and its partners in 13 other North American cities, this tool is the first of its kind in the field of food recovery.

A leader among food recovery platforms, Food Rescue Hero uses a ridesharing-style app to coordinate the world’s largest network of on-demand volunteer drivers, 23,000 and growing, to pick up surplus food from grocery stores, restaurants, etc. and deliver it directly to homes and nonprofits serving people experiencing food insecurity. Volunteers download a mobile app and are alerted by a push notification when a food rescue is available to be picked up near them. And they deliver, with a service rate of 99%. Over the past five years, the network has redirected more than 59 million pounds of good food.

Food waste makes up about 25% of all material in landfills, more than any other single source of waste, and is a leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions. In the U.S., 35% of all food that is produced is wasted, while one in eight people in the country are food-insecure, a problem exacerbated by the pandemic.

“These are all-hands-on deck crises,” says Food Rescue Hero Founder and CEO Leah Lizarondo. “That’s why we’re constantly working to expand the reach of our model, which has proven so effective at both preventing waste and alleviating hunger.”

The organization currently partners with 11 other food rescue organizations around the country, who use a white-label version of the platform. Earlier this year, it launched an introductory version of its app designed for smaller cities and start-up nonprofits. All partners, regardless of which version of the app they use, will have access to Food Rescue University.

This work was spearheaded by Annamarie ‘Annie’ Scozzare, an application development senior manager at Cigna. Scozzare joined Food Rescue Hero through Cigna‘s annual Community Ambassador Fellowship program, which offers eligible employees an opportunity to take a paid leave from work to support projects that exemplify Cigna’s mission.

Through her fellowship, she assisted the team with the implementation of Food Rescue University, providing overall project management oversight, help with the vendor selection process, and configuration of the new system. In addition to this work, she also established additional partnerships with other community groups and shared her experience with her colleagues, increasing awareness around food insecurity and its effects on the overall social determinants of health.

Currently, the Food Rescue University tool offers six courses, covering topics including the basics of food rescue, technology, dispatch, working with donors and nonprofit partners, and recruiting volunteers. Paired with Food Rescue Hero’s platform, it is meant to provide everything an organization needs to create and/or grow a food rescue program in their city.

Additionally, a gamification element allows users to earn badges for achievements such as certifying a dispatcher, food donor, or volunteer manager. An upcoming Phase 2 will incorporate social networking, data analysis, fundraising resources, and community-building activities like virtual happy hours.

“The idea is to assemble the learnings of our experiences and those of our partners into best practices for new food rescue organizations. For mature organizations, this provides a training tool for new staff as well as those looking to expand their operations bench,” explained Jennifer England, Senior Director of Partner Success at Food Rescue Hero and the creator of the courses.

Lizarondo adds, “We want to put this power into as many hands as possible. We aim to be in 100 cities by 2030, and Food Rescue University allows us and our partners to scale growth rapidly.”

About Food Rescue Hero®: Food Rescue Hero is a technology platform that enables food recovery and hunger relief organizations to launch and scale food recovery. In the United States, as much as 40 percent of the food produced is wasted while one in five people goes hungry. Food waste is also one of the leading causes of greenhouse gas emissions. Focusing on the logistical challenges of retail food recovery, Food Rescue Hero addresses the challenges of food waste, food insecurity and climate change through technology-coordinated, community-powered networks. Through the app, volunteer drivers are alerted when surplus food is available nearby to be picked up and delivered to a household in need or nonprofit serving people experiencing food insecurity. Since its launch in 2016, the app has redirected more than 62 million pounds of perfectly good food and mitigated millions of pounds of CO2 emissions. Food Rescue Hero was piloted in Pittsburgh and now measurably impacts food insecurity in 13 cities. In support of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals 2, 12 and 13, its goal is to scale food recovery in 100 cities by 2030.