What to do with a ton-and-a-half of unsalable sweet potatoes? If you're Costco Wholesale in Homestead, on Feb. 3, you call 412 Food Rescue. The fledgling project of The Brazen Kitchen blog and Braddock's Free Store 15104 connects fresh food stores and restaurants can't use to people in need.
"We want to rescue every little bit of food," says Brazen Kitchen's Leah Lizarondo. Some 40 percent of food in the U.S. is thrown out (an estimated 35 million tons a year). Meanwhile, one in seven U.S. households is food-insecure, say federal statistics.
Costco's sweet potatoes were in mislabeled 10-pound bags holding only six pounds of tubers each. That produce wasn't necessarily landfill-bound; general manager Nalani Hunt says Costco also donates to food banks. But food banks can't collect every donation, and 412 Food Rescue aims to fill the gap between donors like the Big Burrito restaurant-and-catering group, area soup kitchens and needy households.
On Feb. 3, Braddock Mayor John Fetterman simply hauled the sweet potatoes in his pickup truck to the Free Store, founded by his spouse, Gisele Fetterman. The sweet potatoes were "gone in a few hours," Lizarondo reports.
Eyeing a formal launch this spring, 412 Food Rescue is recruiting volunteer drivers, and fundraising to buy a refrigerated truck. It's also developing an app that would be like "Uber for food-rescue," says Lizarondo.
"There's no reason why food should be going to waste," she says.