Feeding Families with Lovin’ Spoonfuls
By Luke Pinneo
July 13, 2016
The problem is the solution.
In a nutshell, that is the operating model of Lovin’ Spoonfuls, a Boston-based food rescue that collects fresh, but discarded, food from retailers and distributes it to underserved communities.
“Most people don’t realize that 40 percent of all food produced in the U.S. goes to waste, while 49 million Americans are food insecure,” said Lovin’ Spoonfuls’ Chief Operating Officer Lauren Palumbo.
The non-profit organization started six and a half years ago to end food waste and fight hunger.
“I often say we are first and foremost a food waste agency; feeding people is a side effect,” she said.
But when Lovin’ Spoonfuls began rescuing wasted food from retailers – food in near perfect condition – and delivering it to low-income communities around Boston, they didn’t anticipate how impactful the side effects would be.
“When we got our first delivery, and the staff put all the food out, it looked like Thanksgiving,” said Ann Siegel, administrative coordinator at the Roslindale Community Center, one of Boston’s centers for youths and families.
Most of Siegel’s beneficiaries are hungry, after-school teens.
“By and large, our bread and butter, is when after school begins,” she said.
She said her goal is to create an environment that promotes healthy development. According to Siegel, many of these teens struggle with food insecurity at home. Where hungry kids would normally reach for bags of chips or other pre-packaged snacks, she said abundantly fresh food makes a huge difference in their health and attitudes.
She said after the first Lovin’ Spoonfuls’ delivery, seeing the kids gathered around happily eating quality sandwiches and fresh vegetables nearly brought her to tears.
“I actually got choked up and went right downstairs and sent Lauren an email to say ‘thank you,’” Siegel said.
She and Palumbo agree what makes Lovin’ Spoonfuls distinct from other food providers is that rather than unhealthy processed food, they deal exclusively in fresh, perishable items ranging from fruits and vegetables to artisan breads, chicken, seafood and milk not yet at expiration date.
Faced with overproduction and picky consumers, Palumbo said grocery stores routinely discard perfectly good food to make way for new stock.
“This is happening at every single store,” she said.
Palumbo said blemished fruits and vegetables, dairy and protein with misleading or inaccurate sell-by dates, and bread baked the day before are all pulled early and discarded.
“In the case of milk for instance, we see it discarded five days in advance and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it – it’s just not getting sold,” she said.
With a fleet of six refrigerated trucks and more than two dozen local supply partners ranging from Whole Foods stores to farmers’ markets, Lovin’ Spoonfuls has distributed more than 4.2 million pounds of fresh food that would otherwise be thrown away.
“They provide us with a significant amount of food for our ‘Healthy Moms Healthy Kids’ program, as well as cooking workshops,” said Raheem Baraka, executive director of Baraka Community Wellness.
Here, he cites Lovin’ Spoonfuls’ culinary and nutritional education program called Plenty. Because many underserved communities are not accustomed to a steady supply of fresh ingredients, in addition to delivering the food, Lovin’ Spoonfuls teaches them how to prepare it and avoid waste.
And wasted food, Baraka said, is unacceptable in a metropolis like this.
“There is no reason why there should be hungry children in a city that is so progressive and innovative as Boston,” he said.
While there are still scores of stores discarding food in Boston, and many more mouths to feed, there are innovators like Palumbo bridging the divide between waste and hunger, and aiming earnestly to end both.
“We look forward to a day when we have food security across the board and don’t have to rely on a food agency,” Palumbo said.
Read the full story here.