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Pittsburgh's 412 Food Rescue CEO Says Most Successful Interventions Are Championed By Women

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
412 Food Rescue CEO Leah Lizarondo is speaking virtually on a panel for the World Economic Forum about women in leadership. Even locally, she says women are leading the fight against food insecurity.

On today's program: Leah Lizarondo from the 412 Food Rescue will discuss women in leadership and pandemic recovery on on a virtual lounge panel from Davos 2021; Gambling revenue dropped overall due to the pandemic, but revenues from internet gambling have done relatively well; and the leaders of Achieva and Autism Connection discuss their new partnership.

Pittsburgh CEO to talk about how women are leading global recovery and resurgence at Davos 2021

(0:00 — 5:59) 

Leah Lizarondo, co-founder and CEO of the Pittsburgh-based 412 Food Rescue, will take part in an international panel discussion about “The Critical Role of Women's Leadership in Global Recovery and Resurgence.” 

The panel is hosted by The Female Quotient’s Equality Lounge as part of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting, which is traditionally held in Davos, Switzerland, but has gone virtual in light of the pandemic. 

Lizarondo says throughout the pandemic, it’s become clear that interventions and countries led by women have been the most successful. 

“We know about Jacinda Ardern, we’ve heard about her success in New Zealand,” says Lizarondo. “As we start this period of regrowth and resurgence, we need to have women at the table.”

She says women must be included because they have different lived experiences from men, lead differently, and can help create better adaptation for solutions. Locally, Lizarondo cites women leading the charge against hunger and food insecurity like herself and Lisa Scales of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. 

Lizarondo says one needn’t be a CEO to take help with their community’s recovery in the pandemic. 

“The lowest common denominator is looking at ourselves, and seeing, ‘What is my role in this recovery and resurgence?’” says Lizarondo. “It could be as simple as volunteering, it could be as complicated as running for office.”

Gambling revenues down in the pandemic
(6:02 — 12:00 )

Many businesses have taken a big hit from the pandemic with reduced capacity and health precautions, and some of those businesses include Pennsylvania’s 13 casinos. According to the state’s Gaming Control Board last year gaming revenues declined about $750 million, a 22 percent loss from the previous year.

Doug Harbach with the Gaming Control Board says this drop in revenue can be attributed to the fact that casinos lost a third of operation days during the pandemic. 

“When they were open, they were under the same type of restrictions in regards to how many people could be in the facility, some machines were shut down so that there was social distancing,” says Harbach. “Those types of things also, even when opened, interfered with the normal flow of patrons.”

Harbach says despite the precautions patrons were willing to return to in-person gambling. But some turned to online gambling instead. 

The combined revenue of four other types of gaming established under the Gaming Expansion Act of 2017, including iGaming and video terminals, quadrupled, earning nearly $800 million compared to earning just under $150 million in 2019. 

“There’s no doubt that retail slot machines in casinos are king, however we were very fortunate because we’re one of only a handful of states that were ahead of the curve in offering casino type games [online],” says Harbach. “That did turn into tax revenue that was able to offset some of what the losses were.”

Achieva and Autism Connection create new affiliation
(12:01 — 18:00)

Two non-profit organizations that serve individuals with disabilities are joining forces, starting this month. 

Achieva is a Southwestern Pennsylvania based organization that provides a range of disability advocacy and services. The Autism Connection of Pennsylvania services families and individuals with Autism. 

The organizations have worked together before, but the new affiliation means Autism Connection staff are relocating to Achieva headquarters and adding two trustees to the Achieva board.

“We already have several organizations within our family of organizations,” says Steve Suroviec, president and CEO of Achieva. “Through this affiliation, Autism Connection of PA will be joining Achieva and really providing it’s resources and expertise to really beef up Achieva’s support services and advocacy mission.”

Suroviec says Achieva will be able to offer “back-office” support services to Autism Connection, like finance and human resources work, so Autism Connection can focus on supporting clients.

Luciana Randall, executive director of Autism Connection of Pennsylvania, says her organization is looking forward to working with Achieva on more policy advocacy, and bringing “the autism voice to the front.”

“Part of autism’s challenge is it’s a communication disorder at times, and it’s a hidden disability,” says Randall. “Just because someone has a processing communication disorder doesn’t mean they don’t have the same needs and wants that the rest of us have.”

This year, Randall says Autism Connection wants to increase choice in access to therapies, but is also trying to help families who have shared that they’re struggling with general needs related to the pandemic. 

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.


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