Looking at the year ahead

January 4, 2023 Updated: January 25, 2024

By Ashley Stanley, Founder & CEO of Spoonfuls

Each year around this time I tend to settle into a post holiday state of reflection: still cheerful from the holiday season, and optimistic for what’s ahead. The last few years have been anything but predictable, and we’ve all been ‘in it.’ At times surviving, at times just existing – but, under no uncertain terms, moving through. In last year’s annual report message, I reflected on the challenges that Covid presented, as well as some of what our plans at Spoonfuls were for 2022, namely a much anticipated strategic planning process (a process we originally planned to launch back in 2020, though of course 2020 had other plans).

We finally commenced strategic planning in Q2 of last year and wrapped up about a month ago. The process itself was an incredible dive not just into the work that Spoonfuls has done and where it’s going, but also into the expansive (and shared) space in which we work. Our consulting team conducted 51 interviews (51!) with internal staff, our Board of Directors, our Culinary Board, partners, donors, and experts across the broad landscape of food rescue, hunger relief, politics, and health equity. People were generous with their time, their perspective – and most importantly, their experience. A 360-degree look at Spoonfuls was as fascinating as it was exciting! It also presented some true areas of improvement, and challenges, to consider. This is what was most compelling for me. After all it’s not what we do, or what we’ve done – it’s how we do it, and how we’ll continue to do it. This has meant, at every stage of our growth, some tough decisions and challenging goals. Thirteen years later, post pandemic, and in our second decade, transitioning out of start-up is no different and has set the course for looking at what’s ahead through a combined lens of intentionality, adaptability, and integrity. We have the resources, experience, and stability to ground towards steady-state. 

Using pandemic recovery as an opportunity to step back, it has been critical to shift our focus from urgent and rapid growth, to sustainable, inclusive, and intentional growth. As the ‘planning’ continued, so too did our, and my, understanding of the larger problems that need solving – both in the immediate, and at the root. Starting in 2023, system and platform optimization, process improvement, and other internal improvements are at the top of our priority list. Our operations are our, yes I’m going to say it, bread and butter (see what I did there?), and overall have been largely unchanged, save for the creation of ‘pods’ for our front line at the height of the pandemic. Over this last summer, after being on the road with our front line team, I saw how Spoonfuls is changing and recognized it had to continue to evolve. I started to think about what we could change, and began to identify where we needed to adjust. Reorganizing our Operations vertical was, and remains, at the top of the priority list, especially as we consider new and continued methods of expansion in the coming years. A renewed sense of perspective, commitment, and capability will continue to guide this work and bring us farther in our responsibility to serve. 

In September, I was invited to President Biden’s White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. I spent time learning from and talking with colleagues and friends doing the work here in the Commonwealth and seeing the incredible opportunity that lies before us all. I flew home with pride and gratitude after seeing local colleagues Josh Trautwein, who’s changing the game with Fresh Connect, and Erin McAleer, who continues to map the challenges and the solutions through Project Bread. Knowing that “Food As Medicine” had it’s own stage, literally, during the conference was no doubt the work of David Waters from Community Servings.

Inspired by so much work happening around us, with both partners and friends in the space, and by recent advocacy wins (shout out: the Food Donation Improvement Act, which cleared the House and Senate earlier this month paving the way for additional avenues for retail donations to people who need it!), in the coming weeks I’m excited to introduce a new slate of roles we’ll be hiring for in 2023. With additional investment in community engagement, education, and policy and advocacy, we hope to deepen our connections and strengthen our relationships in ways that not only meet a need for food for today, but also position Spoonfuls to contribute to the development of long term, sustainable solutions to tackle hunger and the climate emergency. At every level of the organization, from entry-level to leadership, and in every area from Operations to Communications & Public Affairs, we are positioning ourselves for greater impact in the years to come.

And, lastly, I’m thrilled to finally embark on a rebrand to better capture and represent the work we do, who we are, and the community we’ve built together. This month marks 13 years of Spoonfuls, and – as we look ahead – I’m incredibly optimistic about the next thirteen.

Thanks to all for your continued support.

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