412 Food Rescue

 

Generally speaking, nonprofits are founded for the purpose of addressing an unmet need.  When they are run well, they focus on one mission and work to correct the problem.  412 Food Rescue has found a way to do more, in a uniquely visionary way.  In fact, 412 Food Rescue actually works to correct three pretty major issue in our world with one simple, but brilliant, idea.

Even with the push in recent years to develop environmental consciousness and increase recycling, we still live in a society in which far too many things are disposed of too easily.  We churn through things. We don’t use what we buy. We throw away things when they are broken instead of figuring out how to fix them. We just move on to the next thing, often without much thoughts about the cost.

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When it comes to food, the statistics that 412 Food Rescue shares on their website are pretty staggering.  Here in the U.S., 15% of the population is hungry. 40% of the food production in our world ends up being thrown away.  When all the numbers are added up, they equate to 20 pounds of food person, per month that is being wasted. Isn’t that a disconnect?  Isn’t there something wrong here? The founders of 412 Food Rescue, Leah Lizarando and Gisele Fetterman sure believed so. And they figured out an amazing way to bridge that gap.

A lot of the success of 412 Food Rescue seems to rest in their unique ability to create partnerships and connections in three different directions. They have built relationships with restaurants, grocery stores, caterers, and wholesale suppliers who reach out to 412 Food Rescue when they have a surplus, leftovers, or the food on the shelves is nearing it’s sell-by date. 412 Food Rescue then gives that food to local nonprofits, community centers, and even local housing authorities serving people who for whom food (especially fresh, perishable food) can be scarce.

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Transporting things from point A to point B is where things really get cool. While 412 Food Rescue does have a refrigerator truck that can handle some of the larger pick ups and deliveries, most of the food transportation is handled by volunteers, or as 412 Food Rescue calls them, Food Rescue Heroes.

These connections are made primarily through an amazing app that I’d encourage you to download at the App Store or on Google Play by typing in 412 Food Rescue in the search bar. Sometimes there are consistent daily or weekly pick ups, but often there is a new situation that will pop up, and it is important to get that food to the people who need it while it is still fresh. W?hen you are signed up on the app to be a Hero, you will be notified when there is a waiting food donation in your area. If you can pick it up and get it where it needs to go, you simply claim it via the app and make the delivery. If it won’t fit your schedule, you can leave it for someone else to scoop up.

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This is a really amazing way to volunteer. No huge, long-term commitments (unless you’d like it to be). If you have a free hour today, you can volunteer. You do what you can, when you can. The hope is that there will be enough people just like you, wanting to help end things like food wast, hunger, and the environmental toll of trashing usable food, that all needs will be met.

I really can’t commend this organization enough. They are an amazing example of creative problem solving; finding a way to solve multiple problems with one fell swoop. In fact, things have gone so well with 412 Food Rescue here in Allegheny County that 724 Food Rescue is in the works to address some of these same problems in the rest of the Pittsburgh metro area. Please reach out if you live in one of the surrounding counties and would like to help too.

 

Light of Life Rescue Mission

Long before I ever lived in Pittsburgh or worked with folks who had experienced homelessness, I remember riding into the city with my Dad to go to a Pirates game.  As we approached the stadium I saw men who looked as though they had experienced some of the hardest things that life can offer hanging out along Western Avenue.  I didn’t really have a point of reference to know what was going on at that time. What had happened?  Why were they here?  How could we help?

Fast forward 30-plus years, and I’m now a Northside resident. The answer to “what happened” is very large and very complex. But the answer to “why are they here” and “how can we help” could be found right there on Western Avenue. The Light of Life Rescue Mission has been working to serve the homeless and the hungry here in Pittsburgh for over 60 years now.  While best methods for serving people and the Mission’s capacity to serve have changed and grown over the years, they continue to provide a home for the homeless, food for the hungry, and build disciples for the Kingdom of God.

That Christian commitment is indubitably foundational at Light of Life Rescue Mission.  There is a chapel, studies, and prayer.  But a different faith, or a lack of faith, in no way precludes someone from receiving the help that he or she needs. Fellowship is available to people who use the services here, but it is not forced on them.

Speaking of services, Light of Life has expanded to provide a number of different services to members of the community.  The Meal Ministry is often a person’s first introduction to what the Rescue Mission can offer. Breakfast and dinner are served seven days a week to not only program participants, but to the community at large. Anyone who is hungry, is welcome. Last year they served over 200,000 meals with the help of dedicated volunteers, generous donors, and an amazing kitchen staff.

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There are also 22 beds dedicated to emergency shelter for men in the community who might need it. Beyond having a safe place to sleep, the men are provided with shower facilities, clean clothes and access to case managers.  Staying in the emergency shelter is often a first step towards one of the more structured programs offered through Light of Life to help men reestablish a life that isn’t marked by housing instability.

For men, the Light of Life Rescue Mission currently offers three different long-term programs tailored to the specific needs of the participants. The eight bed Housing and Employment program provides stable housing, case management and connection to a variety of employment, educational, housing, and medical services to help prepare the men to work and live on their own again.

The Year Long Recovery Program has 30 beds and is set up in 4 phases for men who have been struggling with addiction. Here community and a variety of therapies work hand-in-hand to support the men’s sobriety and prepare them to transition back into society. Additionally, there are 8 more beds dedicated to mental health. This program operates alongside the Recovery Program, but also provides dedicated mental healthcare and is available for a longer time frame to ensure the stability of the participants.

Knowing there are also needs among single mothers and their children, Light of Life also established a Women and Children’s program. They are able to provide comprehensive care and help fitted to the specific needs of the women and families. Services include: housing in a local apartment, transportation, childcare, intensive counseling, education, and training, as well as the opportunity to heal and become part of a community that will allow them to grow as mothers and help them return to independent living when the time is right.

How to Help

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I really want to emphasize just what an important part of our community Light of Life has been over the last sixty years. Thousand of Pittsburgh Residents have received help and love by entering these doors. If you’d like to join in with their work, I’d of course recommend all the usual ways.  Please give, volunteer, and pray.

Specifically, the most pressing needs right now are for Large, XL and XXL size men’s socks and underwear (no briefs) as well as razors and deodorant. For single or small groups of volunteers, the kitchen always needs help with preparing and serving meals.

Eye of the Needle

 

Something that significantly changed in the way that Light of Life served people over the last 10-15 years has been the way our region has experienced what is commonly called the “Opioid Epidemic”. At some point I’ll share my own personal story about this, but for now, I’d really encourage you to watch this video and familiarize yourself with the way heroin has damaged the lives of thousands around Pittsburgh and made caring for the homeless a much more desperate situation.

(Special thanks to Michael Ray for the use of the cover photo)