January 23, 2012

BostInno, January 2012

Lovin’ Spoonfuls: Assisting Restaurants & Helping Boston’s Needy, One Fresh Meal at a Time

by Lisa DeCanio
January 13th, 2012

One warm December afternoon, Roxy’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese food truck was scheduled to come to Dewey Square for a rare lunchtime appearnce. I fasted in anticipation all morning, but just before lunchtime, I saw the following tweets sent by Roxy’s:

Disappointed and starving, I frantically clicked on the profile of @LovinFoodRescue, wondering who, if not me, would get to enjoy my precious grilled cheese.

I was immediately humbled. Turns out, the benefactors of Roxy’s uneaten grilled cheese would be local shelters and soup kitchens.

Lovin’ Spoonfuls is a local non-profit organization that facilitates the rescue of perishable, prepared and unserved foods from restaurants and supermarkets and distributes them to shelters in the greater Boston area. While most associate shelters with preservative-laden canned foods, Lovin’ Spoonfuls focuses on fresh, healthy and nutritious food, from day-old produce straight off grocery store shelves to surpluses of dishes from professionally-catered events.

“Lovin’ Spoonfuls thinks of body and soul nourishing food as a privilege, not a right,” says founder and executive director Ashley Stanley.  “It’s about providing access and trying to bridge that gap between abundance and need.”

That abundance can amount to 100 billion pounds of wasted food per year. In fact, Stanley’s own abundance of leftovers after one extravagant lunch inspired her to create change in the system. Curious, she Googled “what happens to wasted food?” and came across organizations like Food Runners in San Francisco and Philabundance in Philadelphia. “I quickly realized others were addressing the issue under the term ‘food rescue,’” says Stanley, and she began a one-woman show of chauffeuring leftover food to Boston shelters in an attempt to make a difference.

Boston’s food community began to take notice, and thanks to endorsements from longtime restaurateurs like Christopher Myers, as well as the power of social media, Stanley’s mission to make Boston a well-fed city turned into a full-blown non-profit organization by the name of Lovin’ Spoonfuls about two years ago.

“A lot of the waste that happens in restaurants is mostly chefs over-ordering things,” says Jamie Bissonnette, culinary mastermind behind Toro and Coppa, who grew up working in a grocery store where he watched perfectly edible produce thrown away just because it was visibly imperfect. “As a chef, and as a human, I try not to waste anything – whether it’s wood, tile or food,” he says of supporting food rescue and Lovin’ Spoonfuls.

“Spoonfuls is not doing work in a vacuum,” Stanley adds. “These guys are chefs – they feed people, and they take that outlook and apply it to a larger population. This [extra] food can feed people who are hungry, and we give them the option to do that.”

Local organizations like The Pine Street Inn, The Boston Rescue Mission and Bridge Over Troubled Waters benefit from restaurant leftovers and produce from Stop & Shop, Whole Foods and Allandale Farm through Lovin’ Spoonfuls deliveries.

“Food rescue means that we can continue to fulfill our mission in tough economic times when there seems to be a greater demand for soup kitchens,” says Jon Klein of the Haley House, which runs a local soup kitchen. Klein describes the fresh whole wheat pizzas with eggplant and gourmet cheeses made from a recent Lovin’ Spoonfuls delivery, saying, “We really emphasize not just feeding the homeless, but feeding them healthy food like fresh grains, fruits and vegetables.”

“There’s these trendy food terms right now – local, sustainable, farm-to-table,” says Stanley. “We’re hoping that those words don’t lose their value. We need to remember that not everybody’s table looks the same.”

Lovin’ Spoonfuls has a big year ahead, having just acquired a second truck to keep up with the high demand for deliveries. For the next few months, Stanley and her team will focus on building out the process of serving Boston healthy meals and making the message of food recuse and resdistribution widespread so that someday everyone’s table will indeed look the same.

“It’s so simple,” says Stanley. “There’s enough – let’s bring it to the folks who need it.”

See this article online.

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