Tech-Driven Solutions for Food Waste: A Conversation with Jen England

W.E. Podcast was created by Redtree's CEO Meesha Gerhart in a effort to share Women Entrepreneurs stories with other Entrepreneurs. Read more about the podcast »

In a recent episode of “We Talk,” we had the pleasure of sitting down with Jen England, Vice President of External Affairs at 412 Food Rescue and Food Rescue Hero. Jen shared her inspiring journey, the mission of 412 Food Rescue, and her insights on social justice, community empowerment, and personal resilience.

From History Major to Food Rescue Advocate

Jen’s path to her current role is anything but conventional. With a background in history, specifically focusing on social movements, Jen’s career took a turn when personal circumstances required her to leave grad school. She found herself working in PR and communications, which eventually led her to the nonprofit sector. It was here that Jen’s passion for social justice and food security found a powerful outlet.

The Birth of 412 Food Rescue

Founded in 2015, 412 Food Rescue emerged from the simple yet profound belief that good food belongs to people, not landfills. The organization rescues surplus food from grocery stores and restaurants, redirecting it to individuals and families facing food insecurity. This mission is facilitated through the Food Rescue Hero app, a groundbreaking technology platform that connects volunteers with food rescue opportunities, akin to a rideshare service.

Jen explains the logistical challenges that 412 Food Rescue faced initially, relying on Facebook and spreadsheets to coordinate rescues. The development of the app, supported by tech resources from Carnegie Mellon University, revolutionized their operations, enabling them to scale their impact significantly.

Transforming Food Systems

One of the most compelling aspects of 412 Food Rescue’s work is its dual impact on both food waste reduction and food insecurity. Jen highlights the environmental significance of diverting food waste from landfills, where it would otherwise produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas. By rescuing fresh, nutritious food, 412 Food Rescue also addresses health disparities linked to poor nutrition among food-insecure populations.

The organization has expanded its reach beyond Pittsburgh, licensing the Food Rescue Hero app to 17 cities across the country. This model not only maximizes food recovery efforts but also fosters a collaborative network of like-minded organizations.

Jen’s Role and Vision

In her role, Jen focuses on advocacy, public engagement, and system-level change. She emphasizes the importance of transforming food distribution systems to ensure that rescued food can reach those in need promptly. Jen’s work involves educating government officials, foundations, and the public about the potential of food recovery to address both climate change and food insecurity.

Personal Reflections and Advice

Jen’s dedication to social justice extends beyond her professional life. She serves on multiple boards and volunteers her time to various causes, particularly those related to LGBTQ+ rights, feminism, and disability advocacy. Balancing such heavy topics, Jen admits, can be challenging, but she remains driven by the impact she can make.

Her advice to those entering the nonprofit sector is to find work that feeds the soul and aligns with one’s values. She stresses the importance of seeking employers who respect and support their staff, ensuring a healthy work-life balance. Jen also highlights the necessity of creating inclusive workplaces that honor the diverse needs and contributions of their employees.

About Jennifer England

Jennifer England, Vice President of External Affairs at Food Rescue Hero® and 412 Food Rescue. As part of the founding team behind 412 Food Rescue, and director of food recovery operations, Jen learned first hand the complexity of running a food rescue. That’s why her team developed Food Rescue Hero, to address these time-consuming tasks associated with daily operations. Jennifer believes food recovery has the power to not only move the needle on hunger and food waste, but to transform food access and nutrition security resulting in a more just food system. Jen aims to expand the movement to 100 partners by 2030, to measurably make progress against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and transform communities. Furthermore she seeks to be a part of growing the nascent food recovery industry into an organized and impactful force for change. Jennifer serves on the board of the national organization #MEAction and is Co-Chair of the Board of Directors of the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council.

Connect with Jen


About W.E. (Women Entrepreneurs) Podcast

W.E. is a podcast about and for women entrepreneurs. There are so many badass women worldwide killing it with their businesses! On W.E., our host Meesha Gerhart, found of Redtree, and guest Entrepreneurs sit down with these women and learn about how they got started, the challenges of starting and running a business, as well as the triumphs and unexpected joys.

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