According to the National Resources Defense Council, 40 percent of food produced in the United States never gets eaten.
According to local non-profit Just Harvest, of the 1.2 million people living in Allegheny County in 2012, nearly one in seven faced food insecurity.
According to Leah Lizarondo, co-founder of local non-profit 412 Food Rescue, Chatham undergraduate Natalie Jellison ’17 is the brains behind mobilizing local universities to help solve the problem.
“She was the one who heard about us and thought it would be a great idea to rescue food at Chatham,” says Lizarondo. “And she did. She not only broached the conversation with the Office of Sustainability at Chatham, she put together the stakeholders that made it happen.”
Jellison credits a class at Chatham for sparking the idea. “We had to do projects in my Sustainability and Social Justice class,” she says. “and someone mentioned 412 Food Rescue. I thought that food was a good issue to focus on, since it’s the basis of everything. I did some research into 412 Food Rescue and started volunteering.”
Since 2015, 412 Food Rescue has been “rescuing” unsellable but perfectly good food from retailers, wholesalers, restaurants, and other organizations, and delivering it to soup kitchens, pantries, shelters, schools, and other community programs.
Jellison arranged a meeting with Dr. Whitney and representatives from Chatham’s dining services, Parkhurst (Chatham’s dining services partner), and Zipcar. “Everyone was like, if you want this, you can have it,” she says. Parkhurst and the Office of Sustianability split the cost of a Zipcar membership so that students without cars could also volunteer to deliver food, and Zipcar waived the hourly fee for Chatham students on 412 Food Rescue runs.
Jellison started doing food runs on Saturday mornings, picking up food at Anderson, stopping by a nearby grocery store to collect its donation (“it’s on the way”), and dropping it off at Murray Towers, a high-rise for seniors run by the Allegheny County Housing Authority.
“Volunteering is once per week, for an hour, at 11:30 on Saturday morning,” she says. “Right now, about seven Chatham students participate. I want to grow that number this fall to get it more organized.”
412 Food Rescue sees Chatham as a model and catalyst for bringing the program to other universities. Jellison—who will be graduating with a self-designed major in environmental justice and a minor in business and is also pursuing a certificate in women’s leadership—is currently interning there, working to do just that.
“It’s cool,” she says. “I think that at a young age I’m doing a lot, and it’s exciting.”