412 Food Rescue Celebrated On An International Stage

Feb 25, 2020

On today's program: How 412 Food Rescue hopes to expand in 2020; U.S. Steel settles the first in a series of pending class action lawsuits; Pennsylvania launches its own Conviction Integrity Unit; more turmoil for the Allegheny County Democratic Committee; and a look into the true cost of court debt.

Leah Lizarondo founded 412 Food Rescue in 2015.
Credit Courtesy 412 Food Rescue

  Saving and sharing Pittsburgh’s unwanted food
(00:00 — 12:20)

412 Food Rescue founder Leah Lizarondo is being honored with the Vital Voices Global Leadership Award next month for her work “to strengthen democracy, increase economic opportunity and protect human rights.” 

Since its inception five years ago, Lizarondo says the Pittsburgh-based food recovery organization has picked up and redistributed 8 million pounds of food across the region. Volunteers now work with about 600 nonprofits to distribute food to pantries, day care centers, work sites and more in Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Fayette and Washington counties. The model has since expanded to Vancouver, Philadelphia and Cleveland, with a goal spreading to 100 cities by 2030. 

Lizarondo says she’s honored just to be in the company of her fellow awardees. “I definitely feel proud, and I share this award with Pittsburgh,” she says.

Lizarondo says Carnegie Mellon University is helping her figure out how to reach more rural areas through a pilot program in Greene County. If all goes well, she says more locales will follow soon.

U.S. Steel to pay $2 million in class action settlement
(13:24 — 17:38) 

U.S. Steel has agreed to pay $2 million dollars to residents living near Clairton Coke Works. It's the result of a class action lawsuit that claimed pollution from the country’s largest coke facility created a nuisance and hurt nearby property values. 

90.5 WESA's Sarah Boden reports it's still unclear how much of that will go to plaintiffs, and how much money each might receive. Other lawsuits against U.S. Steel are still pending.

Josh Shapiro’s vision for the state’s first Conviction Integrity Unit
(17:49 — 23:39)

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro launched a new division to review and reevaluate past criminal convictions.

Lisa Lazzari-Strasiser, a former public defender and Somerset County District Attorney, will spearhead the first statewide Conviction Integrity Unit in partnership with local district attorneys, law enforcement and victims. The group builds on success from municipalities like Philadelphia, which has overturned 12 convictions in its first two years.

Shapiro says investigators will work in tandem with local DAs, not in opposition, and that people who have been convicted of crimes will be able to reach out to his office directly for potential review.

Rep. Austin Davis steps down from the county Democratic committee
(23:48 — 27:10)

Allegheny County’s top Democratic Party official has called for a review of the party’s bylaws following the resignation of local party vice-chair Austin Davis

"Chairwoman (Eileen) Kelly and I have often differed on the direction of the Democratic Party,” says Davis, a state representative whose district includes portions of the Monongahela Valley. “But the events of the last few weeks have really crystallized that we don't share the same values." 

WESA's Chris Potter reports the infighting comes after an especially divisive endorsement meeting last week.

PublicSource examines ‘The true cost of court debt’
(27:14 — 39:00)

Court fines and fees generate important revenue, but for some people, they’re an insurmountable hurdle. 

A new four-part series from Juliette Rihl of PublicSource.org shows how those court costs balloon for people accused of simple infractions like traffic violations and what happens to residents overburdened by compounding debt.

90.5 WESA’s Caroline Bourque contributed to this program.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.