Uber for helping fewer people go hungry? Yes, please.

Helping make a dent in local food crises while dramatically reducing food waste—all with a minimal time commitment—sounds like a dream for many busy people stuck in the daily grind who still want to make a difference. With Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland’s new Food Rescue app, it’s a reality.
 

Launching November 30, the app will establish Cleveland as one of four cities in the US to offer the technology originally created by 412 Food Rescue in Pittsburgh.

“It’s a new type of volunteering,” said Lynne Hutchison, Hunger Network’s nutrition educator and Stay Well program coordinator. “It allows that flexibility.”

Food Rescue works similarly to ride-share services, like Uber or Lyft. Volunteers will download the app and either accept or deny offers to pickup produce and other food items at supermarkets, distributors, or convenience stores along their daily routes. They will then drop off hauls to one of 71 sites—including Head Start locations—equipped to accept and hand off the donations to food-insecure individuals in the area.

Hutchison says 50 people have already signed up with the app in its experimental phase. Meanwhile, Hunger Network has been building relationships and training employees at regional giants like Giant Eagle, other grocers and distributors, and smaller mom-and-pop shops throughout Cuyahoga County.

“We’re hoping to tap into a new network of volunteers,” says Hutchison.

Locally, the goal is to include all counties in Northeast Ohio. For all organizations involved, the goal is to have a nationwide Food Rescue network.

Not only will the initiative help expand upon serving the 40,000 individuals currently benefitting through hunger centers each month; the Hunger Network also hopes it will divert over one million pounds of food from landfills by the end of 2019.

Hutchison says there has been some resistance on behalf of grocery stores and organizations, but once they are trained and in the loop on how everything works, most people seem to get on board. Says Hutchison, “They hate to see the food going to waste, too."

A Cleveland launch of Hunger Network Food Rescue will kick off at 2:30 p.m. on November 30 at St. Vincent de Paul Near West Food and Family Center, 3606 Bridge Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44113.

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