Lovin’ Spoonfuls Fact vs. Fiction

We’re not a band from the 60s. We’re a food rescue. And now that we got that out of the way… 

Learn more about food rescue – and our food rescue in particular – in this blog about what food rescue isn’t. (If you don’t know, now you know.) These are some of the myths and misconceptions we’ve heard, said, or believed until someone graciously set the record straight. 

“Beggars can’t be choosers” – or anything else taken to mean that people who seek out food resources should accept whatever they can get, like it or not. 

Statements like these run counter to what we, at Lovin’ Spoonfuls, believe. They sidestep people’s dignity and fail to recognize that access to safe, healthy, culturally-appropriate food is a basic human right. Moving right along… 

Food rescue is dumpster diving. 

No. (And a little louder: No.) Food rescue involves picking up food that would otherwise be discarded and actively preventing it from going to waste. In Lovin’ Spoonfuls’ case, that means partnering with big shelf food vendors like grocery stores, wholesalers, farms, and farmers’ markets that have excess or unsaleable product and delivering it, same day, to nonprofits across Massachusetts that serve people facing food insecurity. It means working directly with our vendor partners to help train their employees to set aside as much food as possible since, once food hits the trash, it’s no longer fit for human consumption. That’s as much related to our company values as to safety standards. Remember that thing about improving access to safe, healthy, culturally-appropriate food? Right. No dumpsters.

Lovin’ Spoonfuls relies on volunteers to rescue and distribute food. 

While some food rescues do engage volunteers to rescue food, we don’t. Our Food Rescue Coordinators (FRCs) are all paid staff – and we think this is important. It creates greater accountability for food safety standards, safe driving, and schedules. FRCs show up when they say they will. They have layers of back-up in place should someone need a day (or more than a day!) off the road. Partners – both the vendors and non-profits we work with – can rely on their FRCs, who are assigned a route. FRCs get to know their partners’ needs very well, and that enables them to better source food that end-users will ultimately be able to eat and enjoy based on things like their dietary and cultural needs and tastes.

Looking for ways to get involved? Start here. 

Lovin’ Spoonfuls rescues “expired” food. 

No, but we do often intercept food that’s at and sometimes just past a “best by” or “sell by” date – and those don’t mean the same thing as “expired.” Date labels that read things like “best by,” “sell by,” and “enjoy by,” are a manufacturer’s recommendations related to quality and freshness – not food safety. For many of the foods we pick up, there’s an acceptable window beyond a best by date in which we are still able to provide them to our nonprofit partners. Still, Lovin’ Spoonfuls’ ServSafe-certified Food Rescue Coordinators are trained to always use their senses to double-check whether a food is good to eat in much the same way as one might when inventorying the items in their fridge: Is the package leaky or severely damaged? Is this food moldy? Does it smell the way it should? If it doesn’t, don’t pass go! 

Spoonfuls is a food bank. 

We are not. Lovin’ Spoonfuls is different from a food bank in at least two important ways. 1) Our focus is on perishable food (things like fresh fruits, veggies, dairy, meats, baked goods, and so on). Food banks distribute perishable food, too, but they also offer “shelf-stable” items – those you can store in your pantry for a while. The truth is, if you took a look at a typical Spoonfuls’ haul, you wouldn’t see very much that’s shelf-stable. You’d see a lot of food that you’d want to weave into a yummy meal as soon as you can!

2) Since we’re dealing with fresh, perishable food, we never bank it. There’s no Spoonfuls’ warehouse or offsite storage facility. We operate on a direct distribution model. That means that what we pick up, we deliver that same day to our nonprofit partners. Our trucks hit the road, stock up, and empty out in a matter of hours. Our ability to move that food so quickly helps improve access to healthy food for people who need it. Also of note: We work with food banks – Greater Boston Food Bank in the eastern part of the state, Food Bank of Western Massachusetts in the west – to be an additional source of fresh food for pantries and meal programs in those regions.

Spoonfuls rescues from restaurants. 

We have deep, meaningful connections in the hospitality community. Our Culinary Board helps elevate conversations about wasted food and opportunities to do something about it. And, no doubt, chefs help to make Lovin’ Spoonfuls’ food-forward events a success. But we rarely rescue from restaurants. (Some smaller and/or volunteer-led rescues do. We don’t.) Our food vendor partners are ones that, by the nature of their business, have more food up for grabs than restaurants typically do. Grocery stores, for example, which make up the bulk of our vendor partnerships, often order enough to keep their shelves fully stocked whether or not they can sell off all that food. That’s where we come in.

Spoonfuls’ is a Boston operation. 

This is a “yes, and.” It’s true that Lovin’ Spoonfuls is headquartered in Boston (our office is in Allston). Our largest footprint is in the Greater Boston area. We have six different routes in the eastern part of the state, running from Winchester in the north to Canton in the south. But we also operate in MetroWest and, west of Worcester, in Hampden County. Plus, we are working to expand to Worcester County, likely in early 2022. You can see a map of our existing nonprofit beneficiaries on our website. It drives home the point: We’re bigger than Boston! In terms of communities served, we’re actually the largest food rescue operation in New England.

Food rescue is a bandaid on the problems of food insecurity and climate change. 

Food rescue is a tool we have to feed people and ameliorate the effects of climate change. And it’s an important one. If we rescued just 30% of all the food we wasted in the United States, we’d be able to feed over 42 million people: everyone facing food insecurity in the U.S. today. Plus, because food waste is the #1 material in landfills, rescuing as much as possible works to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, “Feed Hungry People” is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s second most preferred action in their Food Recovery Hierarchy, a key model in their systemic approach to reduce wasted food. In other words, food rescue is not a bandaid. 

However, food rescue isn’t entirely preventative, either. That’s why we work together with our partners and supporters to address the root causes of hunger and climate change. In addition to rescuing food that feeds people today, we’re advocating for policy solutions. Ultimately, we think there’s a path away from urgent response to one in which we’re influencing and creating an improved supply chain. Learn more about our advocacy priorities here.

There’s a lot more we could say on this one. In fact, we’re working on a dedicated blog post where we can explore all the nuances of this question – coming up soon. Stay tuned to our LinkedIn.

Have a question about Lovin’ Spoonfuls not covered here? Check out our website, contact us, or find us on social. (We’re on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.)