5 Courses with Ashley Stanley of Lovin’ Spoonfuls
by Renee Trilivas
April 4, 2011
Mom always said it’s a sin to waste food. Ashley Stanley, founder and executive director of Lovin’ Spoonfuls (lovinspoonfulsinc.org), put this commonsensical concept into practice by transferring leftover food from local grocery stores and restaurants to those who truly need it. Each year in this country, almost 100 billion pounds of food go to waste — and 49 million Americans go hungry. For Stanley, those numbers just didn’t add up. When her nonprofit celebrated its one-year anniversary in January, it had already distributed nearly 60,000 pounds of would-be trashed food to Boston’s needy, simply by applying the childhood dinnertime decree of “waste not, want not” on a city-wide scale.
What inspired you to create this organization? Lovin’ Spoonfuls was really a reaction. Last year during the holidays, I was at lunch with my mom, and we got full pretty early in the meal. I was looking at the food that was left over on the table, and it was that time of year when everything in the news was about the less fortunate and food banks not having enough food. It must’ve just been in the back of my mind because there was a little bit of electricity in my brain. I woke up the next morning and Googled the phrase “What happens to leftover food?” I started to go through these [food-recovery] websites, and that’s where I really got an education on how much fresh, healthy, available food was being wasted in this country. And the numbers were just so shocking that a couple of days later I drove down to my neighborhood supermarket, and what I saw was just staggering.
How does food go from grocery stores to those in need? There’s so much food that’s constantly moving on the floor and off the floor, things spilling over, produce being bruised. . . . What happens is this food is losing its salable value for whatever reason, and what happens is the folks at the supermarket will start pulling what they can no longer sell to create a stockpile for us to come pick up. They set it aside for us, and they keep it at the right temperature; they keep it neat. And we show up on the back end to give to shelters to really try and make it as seamless as possible.
Congrats on the one-year anniversary. What has been your biggest challenge in the past year? I think there are a lot of misconceptions about food recovery in terms of liability, so being able to educate and really put a voice to that conversation and talk about the federal protections [has been a challenge]. . . . The consequences of food recovery go beyond just relieving hunger and wasting food — taxpayers shoulder a burden, the environment shoulders a burden, and companies shoulder a burden — so really those challenges created an opportunity to bring this issue to the forefront of conversation.
What would you say has been your biggest reward? I hear a lot of people being mindful and maybe thinking twice about portion size or how much they’re buying at the grocery store when they go. But aside from being able to make a small contribution to the larger hunger relief [effort], I just feel really lucky that I moved back to Boston [in 2008]. And it feels really good to be home and to be of service to my hometown.
What has the organization been up to most recently? We’re doing a major fund-raising drive so we can acquire a second vehicle [for food transport]. But mostly we’re on the road. Our mission is really clear; it’s really simple. We do one thing, and we do it really well.