AHA heart and torch logoEmPOWERED To Serve

Urban Health Accelerator

2018

Photo of a diverse group of people planing and working on a white board

Leah Lizarondo, 412 Food Rescue

photo of Leah Lizarondo, 412 Food Rescue

Leah Lizarondo
412 Food Rescue
Pittsburgh, PA
412foodrescue.org

Prevent perfectly good food from entering the waste stream.

I think the best experience to recount is my journey to shift my career from for-profit to nonprofit. 

I have a background in consumer goods and have been steadily climbing the ladder at a very prestigious Fortune 500 company. It was financially rewarding and intellectually challenging but ultimately left me unfulfilled.

I felt that there was more. I was spending a lot of time AT WORK. I wanted that time to make a difference at more than a company bottom-line. This became more evident with the birth of my children. I would often ask myself, what would make the trade of time from them worth it? And that’s when I resolved to shift my work toward a social focus.

I worked as CEO of my first nonprofit in 2008 and my goal was to turn around an ailing nonprofit that had $5000 in the bank. I did so and after three years, we not only were in a stable financial position, we had expanded our services from one to five counties and doubled our capacity. 

However, the financial trade-off or the salary cut was hard for my family and I went back to consulting. I traveled and worked long hours and in 6 months was able to recoup much of what we had lost in three years. But I was extremely unhappy. 

I left that position in less than a year and felt that I had taken a hard step back in my career…in every direction. It was a low point. 

I decided to take some time to truly learn what I felt I needed to focus on and I decided to go back to my passion, which is food. I wrote a weekly column for a local magazine that focused on health and food policy. And that’s when I saw the glaring disconnect between food waste and hunger.

The big a-ha moment that brought together my interest in food, in technology (my graduate degree is in technology and public policy) and in people. 

That’s when I decided to launch a technology nonprofit that aims to solve two of our biggest problems today — food waste and hunger. Audacious goals for sure but ones that I feel like are truly within reach. 

The journey to get here was challenging — and I feel amplified by many factors. I am an immigrant, a mother, a woman, a minority in many ways. 

The biggest lesson I learned going back to consulting after my work in nonprofit is that I should not give in to fear. I feared failure and I went back to something that was a sure thing. But it did not give me the sense of fulfillment. 

I have that balance now. The intellectual challenge, the mission-base. 

I am up for all the challenges that this mission presents. But I am also committed enough to know that setbacks are par for the course and the big picture and goals are what matters.


Thank you to the EmPOWERED To Serve Urban Health Accelerator™ in-kind sponsors for providing mentorship and access to technology: