Less than 24 hours after the Steelers battled to defeat the Los Angeles Rams, T.J. Watt was out in the Pittsburgh area doing his part to fight another battle.
The battle against hunger in the community.
The stats are real. And they are sad.
One in eight people are food insecure.
That is why Watt teamed with 412 Food Rescue to deliver food to centers in the Hazelwood neighborhood of Pittsburgh.
"I don't take it for granted how lucky and great I had it growing up, always having food when I needed it," said Watt. "You grow up and realize people don't have that luxury. Now to be able to donate my time to give back to these communities that don't necessarily have the food and resources to be able to get the food is important. Just to be able to give them food, put food on the table is surreal and impactful."
The 412 Food Rescue organization is a locally based agency that was founded as a response to the disconnect between food waste, hunger and environmental sustainability. They work with local distributors and mom and pop stores, chain restaurants to urban farms, to provide food to those who are food insecure. Since its inception, 412 Food Rescue has provided over seven million pounds of food surplus, resulting in more than 5.7 million meals provided.
Watt is someone who understands the importance of nutrition, of people having enough to eat, so it was the perfect partnership.
"It's great. We appreciate partnering with everyone in the community, especially our local sports figures to show the work we are doing and the organizations we rely on partnering with to make this work," said Sara Swaney, director of advancement for 412 Food Rescue. "It takes a whole network to make this all happen.
"This food today is going to help so many people. We are very appreciative to make sure the food is utilized instead of just ending up in a landfill."
T.J. Watt helps deliver food to local community centers as part of the 412 Food Rescue program
Watt worked hand-in-hand with the 412 Food Rescue staff on Monday, delivering food to three different locations – The Latino Center Hazelwood AIU, St. Paul's Lutheran Church and Glen Hazel High Rise.
"It's great to have him here," said Walter Brooks of the St. Paul's Lutheran Church, who also distributes free clothing and other items to those in the community. "I was a little dumbfounded when they told me who was coming. To watch him yesterday and have him here today is great."
And Watt wasn't shy about working. There were a lot of boxes, and stairs in some places, but it didn't bother him as his goal was to spend his off day giving back.
"I want to get out in the community and try and make an impact," said Watt. "I want to connect with the people of our community and relate and show I am just a normal guy. I want to get out and make a difference in Pittsburgh, put roots here, show the people I care about the community and I am not just here to play football. I am a part of this community now and I want to make as much of an impact as I can.
"I think the number one thing my mom and dad said is it takes a village to raise a kid. I think that is true. I can help people and make a positive impact on people's lives, no matter what I am doing in the community, as long as I am showing that I truly care and people see I am not just here to make plays on the field, I am here to make a difference in the community. My parents instilled that not just in me, but in all of my brothers. We want to get out and show people we care."