Another year has come and gone, and what a year 2018 has been here at Lovin’ Spoonfuls! 2018 saw us rescue our 11 millionth pound of food which would have otherwise gone to waste. That is 11 million pounds that has found its way to shelters, pantries and nonprofits with food programs serving the communities of Greater Boston and Metrowest.
Out here in Metrowest, I have had the opportunity to operate Lovin’ Spoonfuls’ first, and only (though hopefully not for long), satellite route since our expansion to the region in 2016. That expansion was made possible by a group of funders including the MetroWest Health Foundation, The Middlesex Savings Bank Foundation, the Sudbury Foundation, and the Foundation for MetroWest. Being the only route in the area has had its challenges but we have been able to serve more people, organizations, and communities than ever before and hopefully next year will bring further growth!
But what has 2018 looked like for myself and Lovin’ Spoonfuls in Metrowest? To answer that we need to look at a typical week on the road. For starters, we need to introduce Mamie, our reliable, refrigerated truck which allows us to pick up fresh produce, dairy, meats, and baked goods and distribute them same day to non-profit organizations. Each workday starts with a cup of coffee (and on some days a second cup from our partners and friends at the Sudbury Food Pantry and A Place To Turn, thanks guys!), and a short commute to Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry in my hometown of Bellingham where Mamie is parked.
A quick check of the truck and a review of the day’s schedule takes place while she warms up and then we are off to start picking up donations from a number of grocery stores. Each day we receive, cull, sort, weigh and load up donations at seven or eight stores. As we load up the truck I like to keep everything organized based on product type and also make sure products that would be a perfect fit at upcoming nonprofits are easily accessible when we arrive. Throughout each day we make scheduled donations at six to eight different nonprofit organizations, and on days where we have extra product at the end of the day we make calls and keep delivering until the truck is empty. And then we do it all over again, Monday through Friday.
Being outside of the city, Mamie’s route covers a lot more ground, with stops in Bellingham, Medway, Milford, Framingham, Ashland, Sudbury, Northborough, Marlborough, and Westborough. In total, 2018 saw Mamie, me, and the other Food Rescue Coordinators who help make this route possible, cover more than 21,000 miles in the pursuit of ending food insecurity in Metrowest. The extra miles could be seen as a negative, but I like to use the time to think through the rest of my day and figure out the best use for each and every item on the truck. While the sheer volume of product we rescue throughout the year has been amazing, it is the individual pounds that make the work we do worth all the time and effort everyone puts in. On this route we go to a number of different organizations, including shelters, after school programs, food pantries and senior centers, and each one has different needs, storage space, and populations which they serve. Since we don’t fill orders or pick up set donations at each vendor, each day is unique and finding the best fit for every item we receive can be a challenge. Having knowledge of what each organization does and who they serve goes a long way in fitting the puzzle pieces together. Picking up an average haul of more than 9,700 pounds per week is all for naught if it doesn’t go to an organization that can use it and it ends up getting thrown away. With this in mind, after noticing an increase in the amount of dairy we were rescuing on the Metrowest route, we realized we were often exceeding the capacity our beneficiaries could handle. We were able to add more nonprofit agencies that could accept milk and dairy to ensure product was going to locations with storage space and the clients to use the excess. In 2018, we were able to add Medway Food Pantry and Ashland Food Pantry as partners, while expanding our support of a number of existing partners.
Showing up to agencies and knowing that we have the perfect product for that specific location and their client base is a great feeling! Pulling up to Daniel’s Table, a meal provider in Framingham, and knowing they are planning to make soups for families in the city, I know that those boxes of cut produce are a perfect fit and will save them a lot of time and effort. Arriving at the Sudbury Senior Center, I know that prepared sandwiches and sweets will fly off the shelves. Throughout the day on Tuesdays I keep track of how much milk I have, knowing that the Medway Food Pantry can take a lot of it, but that even they have their limit. The best moments on the route come when we have complementary items that fit the needs of the organizations. Recently I arrived at the Metrowest YMCA with a box full of fresh ravioli and other pastas which was met with great enthusiasm from the staff, only to be topped when I pulled out the next box, full of jarred tomato sauce to complete the meal.
2018 has seen Lovin’ Spoonfuls grow, both in Metrowest and in Greater Boston. This past year, in Metrowest, we have been able to support 25 beneficiary partners, which in turn provided more than 375,000 meals to more than 20,000 people in the region. We hope we will continue to expand and even get another truck on the road so we can serve more communities, agencies, and people throughout Massachusetts.