Last season T.J. Watt made a commitment to do more in the Pittsburgh community, to give back to those that need it the most.
And he did it by teaming with 412 Food Rescue, a Pittsburgh based organization that was founded as a response to the disconnect between food waste, hunger and environmental sustainability. The organization works with local distributors and mom and pop stores, chain restaurants to urban farms, to provide to those who are food insecure and since its inception, 412 Food Rescue has provided over seven million pounds of food surplus, resulting in more than 5.7 million meals provided.
With so many in the Pittsburgh area suffering from food insecurity these days as a result of the impact of COVID-19, Watt knew he needed to step up. Last November, on an off day, Watt went with the staff of 412 Food Rescue and took boxes and boxes of food to organizations and senior housing, providing the necessities for hundreds in the community.
Watt is currently in Wisconsin now, staying home like everyone else, so he couldn't give of his time, but he gave in another way, making a substantial donation to 412 Food Rescue to help the people in the city that is his second home.
"It's huge to help others," said Watt. "We went with the 412 Food Rescue truck and delivered meals all around Pittsburgh to the less fortunate during the season. That day really sticks out to me as making an immediate impact in the community. It's not just throwing money into research, even though that is great. It's putting money toward actual food that I know through the 412 Food Rescue will get into the hands of the people in Pittsburgh and the people who need it the most.
"That is all that I can really do that will make the biggest impact on Pittsburgh. I know it will go to good use. I was at the facilities it gets distributed at and I know those people need it more than anything now, because you really can't go out. So where do you expect these people who can't leave their homes, or don't have jobs, where are they supposed to get food from. I know 412 Food Rescue will come through and get those meals and put my money in the right place."
It's that comfort level with 412 Food Rescue, and the warm and grateful reaction he got from those he delivered food to in the past, that made him want to continue to give back and show the side of him that everyone who knows him sees on a regular basis.
"It's so humbling and so surreal to snap back into reality and say holy cow, people are so excited to receive a can of beans and just the littlest things I take for granted throughout my regular everyday life," said Watt. "I want to do more and that is the goal of mine when I get back to Pittsburgh, to do more in the community and keep bridging that gap from NFL player to an actual person. I want people to see me as an actual person, and a citizen in Pittsburgh. I am not just some guy you see on TV or on the football field. That is very important to me. It's just trying to be a good person.
"I am in a really good spot to try to affect a lot of people's lives and I am trying to do that the best that I can."
T.J. Watt helps deliver food to local community centers as part of the 412 Food Rescue program