Fighting Waste and Hunger, One Lovin' Spoonful at a Time
Ashley Stanley, the founder and executive director of Lovin' Spoonfuls, Boston's premiere food rescue agency, has plenty to say about food waste, feeding hungry people, and celebrating local purveyors who cultivate community.
When you lead an organization that has rescued more than 3 million pounds of fresh food and advanced the conversation about food waste and hunger, you have every reason to feel proud. Ashley Stanley, executive director of Boston’s premiere food redistribution agency, is filled with a sense of gratitude whenever she reflects on these accomplishments. “Lovin’ Spoonfuls belongs to the community,” she says of the non-profit she founded six years ago. “It’s a celebration of what food can do.”
Chances are good that you have seen the refrigerated trucks puttering around town. They sport the Lovin’ Spoonfuls logo — a heart-shaped wooden spoon — and the motto, 'There’s enough food out there. Let’s go get it!' The organization, which employs a team of five drivers, works with businesses including grocery stores, farmers markets and restaurants. The drivers pick up fresh, wholesome food that would otherwise be thrown away, and that food is delivered to homeless shelters like the Pine Street Inn, Boston Rescue Mission, and other social service agencies whose clients struggle with food insecurity.
While the idea of providing food to those in need is a longstanding one, Lovin’ Spoonfuls brings efficiency to the endeavor. “We are legitimizing [food rescue] as a system,” she says. Streamlined logistics are part-and-parcel to the service they provide. Unlike a food bank where products are stored, food is picked up from a business and delivered on the same day to people in need. This model, which bridges the gap between suppliers and beneficiaries, is needed more than ever.
The amount of food wasted in the U.S. every day represents 40 percent of the food produced. It can take the form of misshapen-yet-wholesome produce, as well as packaged or prepared foods that have passed their sell-by date, but are still safe and nourishing to eat. To illustrate the enormity of the problem, Stanley invites people to visualize the Rose Bowl, the 100,000 seat stadium in Southern California. “Fill it full of fresh food, and set it on fire,” she says. That’s the amount wasted in this country every day. “How do we put out this fire?” she asks.
Growing up in Wellesley, Stanley didn’t plan to work in food, much less launch an organization addressing the problem of food waste. As the granddaughter of a senior executive at Bloomingdales, fashion was her path. She worked in Manhattan before returning to Massachusetts. While she says she came by her latest path by accident — after realizing a restaurant meal was enough to feed several more people than were at the table — the seeds of caring were planted early on. “I come from a family that celebrates food,” she explains. Relationships grow when food is on the table. “Food is the most universal experience we can have. Everybody has got a food story.”
Today, Stanley seeks out local purveyors whose own stories revolve around cultivating relationships and working in ethical and sustainable ways. They are often gathering places for friends and neighbors. She frequents businesses like Allandale Farm in Chestnut Hill, as well as Wasik’s The Cheese Shop in Wellesley, both locations of Formaggio Kitchen in Boston and Cambridge, and Siena Farms’ Farmstore in the South End.
While it’s hard to choose just one favorite eatery, Turkish restaurant Cafe Mangal in Wellesley definitely makes the cut. Just the other night, she had dinner there with her mother and grandmother, ordering chicken Dardanelle, a warming casserole of breast meat prepared with artichokes, tomatoes, feta, and olives. Stanley loves how the restaurant’s proprietors treat all guests with warmth and hospitality. “It just comes back down to food and family,” she says.
The organization she founded has yielded an added benefit. “Lovin’ Spoonfuls is how I reconnected back to Boston,” she shares. “This community is my urban family. It has brought me together with some of the best people I have ever met.”
Support the organization’s Boston Marathon team! Make a donation to the “Lovin Spoonfuls 2016 Boston Marathon Team” through crowdrise.com here.