Emerging Leader – Ashley Stanley
By Keith Regan
September 16, 2011
Boston Business Journal
Ashley Stanley had to see for herself.
The Wellesley native had just left a job in high-end retail and had been reading about food waste
online. She knew the statistics: Millions of pounds of still usable food thrown away every year,
even as 49 million Americans suffer from hunger.
“I really wanted to see what all that food looked like,” Stanley said. She drove to her neighborhood
grocery store in Brookline and talked her way into the back room, where she found pallets of
potatoes, eggplants and carrots — all still edible but headed for the dumpster because it had been
Stanley loaded the food into her car and drove to the Pine Street Inn, where she had
volunteered growing up, and where it was gratefully accepted. A few weeks later, in January 2010,
Loving Spoonfuls Inc., Boston’s first food rescue organization, was formed.
“The time was right,” Stanley said. “We all hit a point in our lives when we’re just looking for
relevance. I wasn’t looking to start a nonprofit. I wasn’t looking to be involved in food recovery — I
didn’t even know what it was.”
Stanley soon found the Boston restaurant and business community embracing her mission, helping
her rescue 60,000 pounds of food in the first year alone, most of it fresh produce, lean protein and
This year the agency bought its first refrigerated truck and, with a fundraising drive now under
way, Stanley hopes to be able to buy a second. “I see it as very similar to the conversation about
recycling at first,” said Stanley. Rescuing just a fraction of all the food wasted could be enough to
feed all the hungry people in the country, she said, while also saving the millions of dollars now
spent to incinerate it. “This food is out there, ready to be used to address our hunger problem.”
What are your top three goals for the year?
The No. 1 goal for Lovin’ Spoonfuls is to acquire a second truck. Last summer we got a
refrigerated van and it was incredibly helpful and increased our range. Now we want to make sure
we can meet the demand so clearly there for the service. Number two is to aggressively pursue
what is now our capital fund raising so we can continue to build ourselves into a sustainable
organization. Also, I’ve been very lucky to have the opportunity to learn from other food recovery
organizations and have been invited to spend time with Robert Egger, the president of DC
Central Kitchen — where the president and his family volunteer. His model is so incredible and
his vision so all encompassing — making time to go do it is something I just need to make happen.
What are your guiding principles for good management?
Have a robust vision along with the ability to communicate that to the folks you work with and your
partners in the field and beyond to donors and potential supporters. Second, consistency both
professionally and personally is such a fundamental principal. And third is compassion — especially
with a mission like this, understanding that we are in the business of helping others is so
What is the best business decision you’ve made?
Starting Lovin’ Spoonfuls.
What is the toughest business decision you’ve made?
Starting Lovin’ Spoonfuls.
Who were or are your mentors?
I’m very lucky that a lot of the principles that go into Lovin’ Spoonfuls come from my family. My
parents have taught me so much about being in this world just by the way they treat people.
Maybe the most significant of all is my paternal grandmother, who is 91, and still has a role in the
family company purchased by my great-grandfather as a refugee from World War II. She is
probably the most ethical and decent person I know while also being very pragmatic and savvy.
What is your overall view of the Boston area as a place to do business?
Boston is an incredible breeding ground for new ideas and socially progressive in so many ways.
There is also an appetite for common-sense solutions, which is what Lovin’ Spoonfuls is. People are
interested in results. The city has embraced our mission in earnest, there is a lot of enthusiasm
politically — both the mayor and governor have acknowledged and validated our model — and
from the restaurant community as well.
What are your civic passions and how do you give back?
We get chances all the time to do the right thing. It means different things to different folks, but
the idea is that any choice you make can be relevant to each other and to what’s happening in the
world. At any given time, it doesn’t ever take a lot to do a little bit of good. I grew up learning that
if we’re able to be of some help in a small or big way, we should. One of the privileges of being
human is that we have choices. At the end of the day, the people who inspire me most are the
ones who make the best choices.
Do you have a motto you follow in business or in life?
I guess I’ve got a few. One for sure is that it’s never what you do, it’s how you do it. Also, walk
from where you stand. And fall down seven, get up eight.
What is the most influential book you’ve read?
“Profiles in Courage,” by John F. Kennedy. My dad gave it to me when I was in junior high and
growing up I spent a lot of time at the JFK Library. It’s about doing what’s right.
What is your favorite restaurant?
For me, this is like Sophie’s Choice, but you can find me at Meyer’s & Chang just about any day of
the week. In fact, back when I was gestating the idea for Lovin’ Spoonfuls in my head, I stopped
in there for dinner and wrote down on a scrap of paper “there’s enough food out there to feed
everybody.” I still have that scrap of paper. It’s covered in soy sauce and crinkled, but that phrase
became our tagline.
What’s on your iPod?
I grew up listening to the same music as my parents, so there’s Motown and soul and music from
the ’40s, ’50s and early ’60s. When everybody was listening to New Kids on the Block, I was
listening to the Everly Brothers. Now, my taste really spans everything. It’s all over the map.
What’s your favorite get-away spot?
Nantucket. It’s much different than it was, but I can still go and find places that look and feel the
same as when I was 5. What I love about it most is that it always smells like wild roses. I haven’t
found another place on earth where that scent just hits you and you know exactly where you are.