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412 Food Rescue Changes Strategy, Not Mission During Coronavirus


On today's program: How a local food waste prevention group is adapting to social distancing; scammers are capitalizing on the coronavirus outbreak; and advice from child psychologists about explaining COVID-19 to children.  

Protecting volunteers while getting food to the hungry
(00:00 — 08:06) 

The nonprofit 412 Food Rescue has been diverting food that would’ve gone into a landfill toward hungry people in Pittsburgh for five years. Senior director of advancement Sara Swaney says now is no different.

“We’re still plugging along as usual and working to make sure that we’re getting food to where people are,” she says.

412 harnesses alerts volunteers through a mobile app to pick up surplus food from supermarkets, restaurants, universities and other donors, and deliver it to places like shelters and family support centers. Usually that includes a fair amount of hand-to-hand contact, Swaney says, so volunteers are now skipping trips inside donor businesses and instead picking up and dropping off the food outside. Volunteers over 60 or with compromised immune systems, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have identified as more vulnerable, have been asked to not participate for now.

“This is a horrible situation that no one ever thought we would all be in, and it’s truly impacted every single person out there," Swaney says. "To see folks reach out and ask us ‘what can we do to help you,’ has been very heartwarming.”

Scams tick up over outbreak fears
(08:13 — 13:58)

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and U.S. Attorney Scott W. Brady announced a new joint task force last week to investigate and prosecute coronavirus-related fraud. Those investigations include online, email and telephone scams preying on public fears, promising vaccines or offering other products.

Shapiro says his office has received more than 1,500 online consumer complaints about excessive price increases on cleaning and paper products since the coronavirus outbreak began in earnest a few weeks ago. Most vendors lower their prices after a phone call from his office, Shapiro says. The next step is usually a cease and desist letter.

“If they don’t obey them,” he says, “we can fine that store, that merchant with a fine up to $10,000 per violation.”

Pennsylvania’s price gouging law took effect when Gov. Tom Wolf issued adisaster declaration March 6. It prohibits companies and vendors from charging an amount exceeding 20 percent of the product's average price. People can report suspected scams via email or call Shapiro's office at 1-800-441-2555.

How to talk to kids about the pandemic
(14:04 — 17:58)

Experts say it’s best for parents and guardians to be as honest as possible with kids when talking about the coronavirus: why they’re not in school and why they can’t do all of the things they’re used to doing. 90.5 WESA’s Sarah Schneider spoke to educators and child psychologists about what parents should be mindful of when talking to their kids about the pandemic

90.5 WESA’s Tom Hurley contributed to this report.

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.


Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Megan Harris is a writer, editor, photographer and curator for Pittsburgh's NPR News station. She leads editorial coverage for The Confluence, 90.5 WESA's live, one-hour, daily morning news show.
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