The UpPrize Social Innovation Challenge engages the community in producing innovative solutions to meet the critical needs of our region’s nonprofits and people. In its second year, UpPrize is the most significantly capitalized social innovation competition focused on improving the quality of life for residents in Southwestern PA. The challenge is organized by The Forbes Funds in collaboration with BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania, Bridgeway Capital, Comcast Business, UPMC and NEXTpittsburgh. After this cycle, approximately $1 million will have been invested in sustainable solutions proposed by local entrepreneurs and nonprofits.
During the final two weeks of this cycle, we are publishing short spotlight interviews with each of the finalist teams. Our next spotlight features 412 Food Rescue. Interview responses provided by Leah Lizarondo, Co-Founder and CEO.
Why did you apply to UpPrize?
We believe that we have a truly disruptive and innovative project that has the potential to change healthy food access for the most vulnerable populations. It builds on our success in redirecting surplus food from going to landfills to provide fresh, healthy food to those who are food insecure.
How did you develop your idea? How will it impact the lives of vulnerable populations in Western PA?
Our project is the natural progression of our work in harnessing food surplus to impact hunger. Its basic premise acknowledges that our society is increasingly "pressed for time" and we are turning to convenience foods more and more. Unfortunately, convenience foods are often nutritionally deficient contributing to the cycle of disease in all populations. Our goal is to provide healthy and affordable alternatives to commercially produced convenience foods--contributing not only calories but nutritive alternative to low-income households.
What have you learned about yourself or your team as a result of the process?
Our team operates on the assumption that we are only scratching the surface of how surplus food can impact hunger. We waste almost half our food supply and have enough food to feed all those who are hungry four times over. Producers have historically found no value in this food-- throwing it all in landfills. We believe that this food is immensely valuable in the face of the fact that 1 in 7 are hungry, especially since up to 60% of this food [is made of] fresh fruits and vegetables. Through this UpPrize process, our team has become even more passionate, cohesive and determined to push the envelope to show how much surplus food can change the face of hunger.
What advice do you have for anyone considering applying to UpPrize?
To have no fear. There is nothing to lose by trying and everything to gain even in going through the process-- the workshops, the access to the mentors, the feedback and guidance...invaluable.
Where can people learn more about your idea? (website, social media, etc) *
Check out "The Good Food Project" on UpPrize.org!
Anything you'd like to add?
We'd like to thank the UpPrize team for this incomparable opportunity!