Leah Lizarondo, 412 Food Rescue

photo of Leah Lizarondo, 412 Food Rescue

Leah Lizarondo
412 Food Rescue
Pittsburgh, PA

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.