Looking back to Inclusive Innovation Week 2017…

How 412 Food Rescue and Kelauni Cook continue to expand their mission and work towards a city for All.

412 Food Rescue volunteers picking up a food donation.

With Inclusive Innovation Week 2018 fast approaching, we want to share some of last year’s highlights with you. In 2017, 136 organizations hosted 79 free events across 20 neighborhoods in 8 days under the banner of Inclusive Innovation. The week was meant to inspire meaningful conversations, increase cross-sector collaboration, and amplify opportunity for all. We want to share some of the events that were held last year and their lasting impact in the city.

412 Food Rescue Challenge

For Inclusive Innovation Week 2017, 412 Food Rescue partnered with the City to mobilize government staff and elected officials and raise awareness about food waste in Pittsburgh. 412 Food Rescue is a non-profit organization co-founded by Leah Lizarondo and Giselle Fetterman, with a mission to prevent perfectly good food from entering the waste stream. 412 Food Rescue uses volunteer drivers to transport food donations to nonprofits and housing authorities that serve those who are food insecure. At first, the organization used social media to mobilize volunteers but in November 2016, their technology team created an app called the “Food Rescue Hero App”. The app connects volunteer drivers to food donation sites and food collection sites in real time, allowing anyone to log on and help out. While several organizations have addressed food insecurity, nobody has done it quite like this. They crowdsourced the dilemma of food insecurity in a powerful and innovative way.

The Inclusive Innovation team reached out to 412 Food Rescue to start the 412 Food Rescue Challenge. We had a goal to collect and donate 15,000 pounds of food to those in need by mobilizing city staff. Mayor Peduto, Chief Valerie-McDonald, City Council and various City Departments, including Public Safety, City Planning, EMS and Public Works participated in the challenge, rescuing and delivering food to Pittsburgh Housing Authority residents across the city. Here are some pictures of what we did.

When the results were tallied, the City of Pittsburgh rescued almost double its goal — 27,500 pounds of food. There were 104 app downloads during the week and many more volunteers!

A year later, 412 Food Rescue is growing exponentially. Today, they have 3000 active drivers in the Pittsburgh region, making it the largest food transport network in an urban area. By the end of 2017, 412 Food Rescue had reclaimed and repurposed more than 2.6 million pounds of food in its two years of operations. Lizarondo’s goal for 2018 is to save 2.6 million pounds of food in a single year.

In addition to developing its Pittsburgh volunteer base, 412 Food Rescue will be expanding their service to the South Western Pennsylvania Region — 724 Food Rescue. And they are expanding their team by hiring a COO and Product Manager for the organization. Lizarondo said they will also be offering up their technology to other cities so others can have the same impact that 412 Food Rescue has had in Pittsburgh. Their use of technology for social good model is changing the Pittsburgh region and creating connections and opportunities for equity that we have never seen before.

Where is Black Tech in Pittsburgh?

Another organization that has been growing since Inclusive Innovation Week 2017 is Black Tech Nation. Founder, Kelauni Cook, came to Pittsburgh to learn how to code. Through Academy PGH’s intensive program, she became a software developer and landed a job at the Washington Post in DC. But as she was worked there, she realized there were almost no other black employees in the company, not to mention black female techies. Cook came back to Pittsburgh and decided to start a dialogue around this issue during Inclusive Innovation Week 2017. What started out to be a roundtable discussion of 10 to 15 people, became an open meeting of “80 of Pittsburgh’s most successful black entrepreneurs, city council members, city officials and techies” as stated in the recent PublicSource article. The event was called “Where is Black Tech in Pittsburgh?” and took place on April 1st, 2017 at The Shop in Homewood. Speakers and participants gathered around to have meaningful and difficult conversations about the lack of diversity in Pittsburgh’s tech scene. Everyone in attendance was concerned and wanted to change the status quo, but nobody knew what to do next.

“Where is Black Tech in Pittsburgh?” event video
(Left) “Where’s Black Tech in Pittsburgh?” in April 2017. (Right) Black Tech Nation Launch Party in January 2018.

Since the event, Kelauni Cook has been invited to speak in council chambers to further the agenda and discuss the next steps necessary for Pittsburgh to welcome and celebrate black technologists. Just last month, she launched her organization, Black Tech Nation, with the support of Carnegie Mellon University and others. The organization focuses on conducting research (Where are the black techies and professionals in Pittsburgh?), supporting education (How can we make pipelines for black youth?), and creating a network of black professionals and programmers. If you are interested in joining the network, check out their facebook group.

What Can Inclusive Innovation Week Do For You?

These are just two of the amazing events and partnerships from last year’s Inclusive Innovation Week. This year we are encouraging more collaboration among nonprofits, government, individuals, and private businesses. We already have events shaping up including, but not limited, to an Immigrant and Refugee panel of speakers, a Youth Innovation day, and an event for all generations of Makers at the Children’s Museum.

If you would like to plan an event that has a lasting impact on the city, please submit an event idea and read more about IIW 2018 on our website. The deadline for submitting an event is February 28th, 2018.


Inclusive Innovation Week is an event week and platform spearheaded by the City of Pittsburgh and URA to amplify opportunity for all and encourage cross-sector collaboration. Inclusive Innovation Week 2018 will be April 2nd to April 8th with events held all over the city! Keep up to date with our calendar for more information.