Woman’s mission: Waste not, want not
By Katy Jordan
July 12, 2011
In a time when one in five Bostonians struggles to find the next meal, Ashley Stanley goes out and helps find it for them.
The 32-year-old founder of Lovin’ Spoonfuls — a Hub-based non-profit aimed at ending hunger — has turned discarded food into dinners.
At last count, she’s collected 40,000 meals by taking unsold food headed for a Dumpster and bringing it to shelters across the city — no small feat for one woman with a van.
Stanley hits up restaurants, food distributors and grocery stores, which discard thousands of pounds of food weekly in order to make room on their shelves for new inventory. That unspoiled food is picked up and brought to those that need it.
“Her impact is massive,” said food activist, host and Travel Channel television star Andrew Zimmern. “She’s just one woman and one truck but that’s one more person feeding mouths.”
Zimmern, who has singled out Stanley for praise, said she’s part of the solution.
“Organizations like (Lovin’ Spoonfuls) can actually solve the problem of food waste, which is a national tragedy,” he told the Herald yesterday.
For Stanley, a Wellesley native who once worked in the New York fashion scene, her food epiphany came over lunch with her mother, Caren, last year.
“I looked at the food we didn’t eat and it could have fed three people, and then I just started thinking about it,” she said.
After combing over Web sites and studies — such as a recent U.N. report that reveals that one-third of the world’s food, about 1.3 billion tons, is lost or thrown away — she took a trip to the back of a grocery store. She filled up her trunk with fruits and vegetables ready to be discarded, and drove to Pine Street Inn, the city’s largest homeless shelter.
“Why not? Why not connect the two and take what’s so desperately needed and just move it to where it needs to go. At the end of the day, it’s just food distribution,” Stanley said.
City officials say Stanley’s work is coming at a time when hunger plagues many homeless families.
“At a time of rising costs of bread, eggs, fruit and vegetables … food rescue is absolutely part of the equation and solution,” said Jim Greene, director of the city’s Emergency Shelter Commission.
“Folks are hungry, and tightening their belts.”
Every pound of food Stanley collects, he added, helps stretch that grocery bill.