Facebook pictures of Marty Nohe, the current Coles District Supervisor, picking up food for the Prince William Food Rescue in his truck brought the new program to my attention. I wanted to learn more.
A quick investigation led to Aaron Tolson, development director for Action in Community Through Service of Prince William Inc. (ACTS). We met at Jinari Coffeehouse in Manassas to discuss how this program came to be and what it does for our community.
Tolson stumbled across 412 Food Rescue on Facebook. After due diligence, Tolson talked to Steve Liga, the CEO of ACTS, to discuss bringing Food Rescue to Prince William County. Liga was “all in!” Looking for marketing support, Tolson took the idea to Patrick King, CEO of Imagine, a Manassas-based marketing company.
A road trip to Pittsburgh soon followed to meet with Leah Lizarondo, the CEO and co-founder of 412 Food Rescue. Tolson, Liga and King liked what they found. 412 Food Rescue recognizes that 40% of our food supply is usually wasted. It “connected the dots” to match food that would have otherwise gone to a landfill with volunteers who instead take it to distribution centers that serve people who might otherwise go hungry. All you need is an Apple or Android smartphone and the Food Rescue Hero app to help feed the hungry in your community.
After bringing the software to ACTS, tailoring it to the Prince William community, and testing it to shake out the bugs, the program went live on Aug. 14. Imagine helped with graphic design and communications. Tolson put together a staff of two to roll out and manage the Prince William Food Rescue. Heaven Jordan works with donors across the region. Claire Duncan manages daily operations to make sure the website and the program run smoothly.
The app demonstrates the application of technology for the public good. It literally integrates good deeds into participants’ daily lives hosted on something always close by, their smartphone. Volunteers, also known as food rescue heroes, are alerted about opportunities to pick up surplus food from food donor partners and transport it to distribution food partners such as food banks. The app can alert folks who are out and about so they can integrate a transport into whatever they are doing at the time.
Data are constantly being collected and evaluated to optimize performance. All of the information a food rescue hero needs is provided in the app. Currently, most pickups occur during weekdays, mostly in the morning. End-to-end trips average 45 minutes. The program has expanded into the Prince William, Manassas and Manassas Park school systems. It has also expanded into transactions between food banks. Tolson is constantly looking for new ways to connect excess food with people who need it.
At last count, the program had about 31 food donor partners and 500 active food rescue heroes. The program is looking for more food donor partners (both large and small), food rescue heroes to pick up donations, and food distribution partners to get food to people who need it. If you want learn more or sign up for one of these roles, go to the Prince William Food Rescue website. You can learn all about the program and find the link to download the app there.
Tolson said it best when he coined the line, “Imagine ending hunger.” You can help make ending hunger in our community a reality.
Al Alborn is a political and social activist in Prince William County. His column appears every other week. You can learn more about Al at www.alborn.net.