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Finalists named in $1M UpPrize social innovation challenge |

Finalists named in $1M UpPrize social innovation challenge

Leah Lizarondo of 412 Food Rescue and Jen Warbler of Dormont fix plates of Thanksgiving meals for residents of General Braddock Towers in North Braddock.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
From left to right, Jennifer England, 46, of Greenfield, Leah Lizarondo, 42, of Stanton Heights, and Rebecca Maclean, 37, of Highland Park, stand for a portrait at Five Points Artisan Bake Shop in Squirrel Hill on Thursday, July 30, 2015. England, Lizarondo, and Braddock counterpart Gisele Fetterman started 412 Food Rescue, which finds food that would otherwise be thrown away and diverts it to people and organizations who need it. Maclean, who volunteers as a driver for the organization, was at the bakery to pick up a donation of surplus bread to deliver to Homewood.

Ten proposals seeking to improve the lives of greater Pittsburgh’s most vulnerable people through food access or technology just clinched $10,000 apiece in prize money in the second annual UpPrize social innovation challenge.

About $1 million in prizes and operational support is up for grabs through UpPrize , an effort aimed at generating ideas and technology solutions that improve the public good. The Forbes Funds joined officials from BNY Mellon and Bridgeway Capital in announcing the 2016-17 UpPrize finalists during an event Wednesday at the Pittsburgh Innovation Center on the 12th floor of BNY Mellon, Downtown.

“Whether we do it through food access, technology or improving the way nonprofits serve, we want to make a difference immediately in communities,” said Kate Dewey, president of The Forbes Funds, a nonprofit consulting arm of The Pittsburgh Foundation. “We were looking for ideas that could be ramped up pretty quickly and also can make a clear difference in the lives of the most vulnerable people.”

Anyone can submit an idea, from students to budding entrepreneurs to small business owners. Winners get cash prizes between $10,000 and $300,000 as well as technical and organizational support.

The 2016-17 contest had two categories: technology solutions to help nonprofits serve vulnerable populations and products or services that increase vulnerable populations’ access to healthy food.

Healthy food finalists include:

• Bible Center Church’s Oasis Foods, which will use the Oasis Farm and Fishery’s solar-powered greenhouse to teach urban farming to Homewood youths.

• Knead Community Cafe, a plan by Kevin and Mary Bode to open a pay-what-you-can cafe in New Kensington where customers can volunteer in exchange for meals.

• 412 Food Rescue, which plans to transform fresh unwanted and unused healthy food into “extremely affordable” prepared meals through The Good Food Project.

• Black Urban Gardeners and Farmers of Pittsburgh Co-Op, an urban farming collective that aims to improve access to fresh, nutritious foods in Homewood and Uptown.

• Economic Development South, which seeks to open a fresh-foods cornerstore in Clairton.

Impactful technology finalists include:

• BlastPoint, which has developed big-data solutions to help nonprofits target services and measure impact, such as by using data stories and visualizations.

• Expii Inc., which developed a platform to improve personalized, on-demand learning experiences accessed via smartphones.

• Community Data Roundtable, which is creating a parent portal so caregivers have direct access to medical information in a way that’s useful and meaningful for parents.

• HiberSense, whose self-learning thermostat system for nonprofits and low-income housing can reduce HVAC bills by 40 percent.

• Rubitection, which developed a medical device to prevent and manage ulcers and bedsores.

The UpPrize judges — 22 local professionals and national experts across public, private and nonprofit sectors — rank ideas based on their feasibility and potential to make measurable impacts.

Each finalist is guaranteed at least $10,000. Final winners — eligible for up to $300,000 — will be announced at a showcase event March 30.

Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

Reach her at 412-380-8514 or

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