Spoonfuls is the largest food rescue in New England. That’s in terms of geography, pounds rescued, and people served. Our partnerships with food retailers, nonprofits, and community organizations across Massachusetts are key, enabling us to recover and distribute more than 4 million pounds of food each year. In short, we can have a bigger impact when we work together! (You can read lots more about how we work here.)
Among our valued partners are two of the Commonwealth’s three Feeding America food banks: Greater Boston Food Bank and The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. Learn more about our food bank partnerships below!
But first… Food banks and food rescues: What’s the difference?
Food banks (like Greater Boston Food Bank and Food Bank of Western Massachusetts) and food rescues (like Spoonfuls) are focused on meeting an immediate need for food. We work to supply other food programs (like pantries, meal programs, and shelters) with the food they need for their guests. But we’re different, too, both in terms of how we acquire and distribute food and sometimes even what we distribute.
Traditionally, food banks focus on ordering and storing (or “banking”) food for their partner agencies. Because food is banked, items with a longer shelf life are important. While food banks are distributing perishable items, you’ll see many more nonperishables (canned fruits and veggies, beans, grains, etc.) in a typical food bank distribution than you would in the back of one of our trucks.
Spoonfuls, a food rescue, focuses on recovering still-good-to-eat, mostly perishable food and distributing it, same-day, to nonprofit partners. We don’t bank anything. We aim to move fresh food (like fruits, veggies, dairy, and meat) quickly and get it into the hands of people who need it while it’s still good to eat!
So how do you work together?
Leaning into our different strengths and areas of focus, we collaborate with our food bank partners to source and distribute fresh food to nonprofits in communities in which we operate!
“[Our partnership with Spoonfuls] has been very important to our member agencies and the food recovery work we do at The Food Bank,” said Shirley DelRio, Director of Food Operations at The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. “Some of our member agencies do not have the capacity to pick up perishable donations because they do not have a refrigerated vehicle and/or have limited staff resources to make pickups at the frequency required.” Spoonfuls has a fleet of refrigerated vehicles with a full-time Food Rescue Team, so we’re able to provide consistent, safe transport of perishable food to nonprofit partners in The Food Bank’s network. Plus, we hope, the service enables food bank partners to allocate their own resources elsewhere!
Because the Greater Boston Food Bank and The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts each have deep relationships with food vendors in the area, they’ve also been helpful in connecting Spoonfuls to new-to-us vendors with excess food. When we have the ability to take on more partnerships, they’re one resource we turn to for introductions.
Another benefit about our relationships with the food banks has been our commitment to data sharing, which allows Spoonfuls and our food bank partners to evaluate how we’re allocating resources,” says Spoonfuls’ Operations Director, Sean Ahern. “For areas where we have overlapping partnerships, we share what we’ve rescued, who we’ve rescued it from, and the organizations we’ve distributed it to. In turn, they share data with Spoonfuls that shows how rates of food insecurity align with food access resources, including Spoonfuls’ deliveries, in the communities we work with. This information is useful in understanding where our food rescue work has the potential to help communities access more healthy, fresh food.”
These ways in which Sponfuls and our food bank partners work together are outlined in Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs), which stem from the belief that when we work together, we can improve this great network of emergency food providers here in Massachsuetts. Back in 2015, Spoonfuls and Greater Boston Food Bank were the first to recognize the collective impact that could be had. Getting intentional and creative among our leadership teams gave way to a discussion that affirmed a shared commitment to being solutions for food donors and feeding agencies, while recognizing that our focus and capacity are different and complimentary. As they say, the rest is history! Over the years we’ve heard success stories from other food banks and food recovery organizations working together to do more.
Feeding the 1 in 6 households in Massachusetts facing food insecurity takes a team effort, and we’re glad to have the Greater Boston Food Bank and The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts among our many partners. By leaning into each other’s strengths and working as a community, we can feed more of our neighbors!