412 Food Rescue delivering excess Parkhurst dining food via Argo AI's self-driving vehicles.

In comic books, it used to be a big deal when “crossovers” happened — when one of your favorite characters suddenly showed up in another’s universe and story. (Then, well, the movies kind of overdid it).

If Pittsburgh has superheroes (especially of the non-pigskin-toting variety) it’s the people at 412 Food Rescue. They have transformed a massive, tragic inefficiency in our society — the sheer volume of food that is wasted (up to 40%) — into an opportunity to feed people in need. And they did it by designing an app that lets anyone join in to help. (Full disclosure: I was a regular driver for years). The Food Rescue Hero network has expanded to 25 cities and recently celebrated 100 million pounds of food “rescued.”

Well, they finally got their crossover with two other titans of Pittsburgh, the bleeding-edge technology of Argo AI’s self-driving cars and Eat’n Park.

Argo’s autonomous vehicles will pick up and transport food to nonprofits that help feed the needy in the region. The food comes from Argo’s headquarters in the Strip District, which is serviced by Parkhurst Dining, the contract dining division of Eat’n Park.

A 412 Food Rescue holding a box of "rescued" food.
412 Food Rescue volunteers prepare a delivery. Photo courtesy of Parkhurst Dining.

Yes, some humans will be involved. There’s no robot to put a tray of sandwiches in a trunk (yet) so Argo will be operating with two “test specialists” for 412 Food Rescue deliveries.

“412 Food Rescue has always aimed to modernize food recovery to make donating surplus food easier for businesses, and delivering that food immediately, making food access convenient for people in need,” says Leah Lizarondo, the nonprofit’s co-founder and CEO. “We believe in using every tool in our technological toolbox to get food to people who need it, and we’re excited to explore how one of the most innovative technologies we’ve seen in Pittsburgh can be used for good through our partnership with Argo.”

In Pittsburgh alone, one out of five residents faces food insecurity — whether it’s living in “food deserts” or a lack of adequate transportation or time to visit food pantries.

“As a longstanding partner of 412 Food Rescue, Parkhurst Dining and Eat’n Park Hospitality Group are passionate about addressing food insecurity,” says Jeff Broadhurst, president and CEO, Eat’n Park Hospitality Group. “We are thrilled to partner with a forward-thinking organization like Argo to offer a truly innovative solution to this problem that is rooted in our shared desire to care for the community around us.”

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife, Shaunna, and 10-year old son.