help us expand to springfield: contact your state senators today!

 

CALL TO ACTION: Lovin’ Spoonfuls needs your help!

We’re at it again — please help us make it into the Senate budget! All this week, the Massachusetts Senate will be debating the FY2019 budget for the Commonwealth. State Sen. Eric Lesser (1st Hampden and Hampshire Counties) is filing an amendment on behalf of Lovin’ Spoonfuls for $100,000 in state funding to support our expansion into Springfield and surrounding communities. Springfield has long been a priority for us, as it is home to the highest rate of childhood food insecurity in Massachusetts. State support will ensure our successful launch, leading to service to the region for years to come, much like our current operations in the Greater Boston and MetroWest communities.

Please call or email your State Senators this week to ask them to support Sen. Lesser’s amendment by co-sponsoring. You can find your State Senator by visiting this website , and when you click on their name, you can see their email address and phone number.

Sample script:

Hi, my name is [your name] and I’m a constituent from [your town], and I’m calling to urgently request that you co-sponsor Sen. Eric Lesser’s Amendment #970, supporting Lovin’ Spoonfuls’ expansion into Springfield. Springfield is home to the highest rate of childhood food insecurity in the state, and this Amendment will help the region get the services it so desperately needs. Please support Lovin’ Spoonfuls expansion to serve this community. Thank you.”

 

Sample email:

 Copy and paste:

Subject: Please Co-Sponsor Sen. Eric Lesser’s amendment to bring Lovin’ Spoonfuls to Springfield!

Dear Senator  ________ ,

My name is _____________ and I am a constituent in _____________.  I am writing in support of Lovin’ Spoonfuls expansion into Springfield, Massachusetts.

Lovin’ Spoonfuls connects food which would otherwise be discarded to the people that need it most. The agency currently serves Eastern Massachusetts, feeding 35,000 people each week. Springfield is home to the highest rate of childhood food insecurity in Massachusetts. The region desperately needs the services and support that Lovin’ Spoonfuls provides.

I respectfully request that you co-sponsor Sen. Eric Lesser’s Amendment #970 to secure $100,000 to fund of Lovin’ Spoonfuls’ expansion to Springfield.

Thank you for your consideration and the work you do on our behalf.

Sincerely,

Name and Address

 

Thank you for taking the time to support our work with this effort. Stay tuned for updates on our progress!

 

The Lovin’ Spoonfuls Team

Meet Amber!

 

Amber Tillson joined Lovin’ Spoonfuls in February as our new Development Director!

 

How did you arrive at Lovin’ Spoonfuls?

At age 5 my mom and I would make sandwiches to take down to the local shelter. As a kid, it was hard to imagine that some people didn’t have food, and that stuck with me. At this point my mom was a single mother of 3, and at times struggled to put food on the table for us. As I grew up, I continued volunteering for hunger relief organizations. In high school and through college I volunteered at a local shelter 3 times a week, which deepened my passion for food justice.

Needless to say, these experiences cemented my core beliefs regarding hunger– that healthy, delicious food is not a privilege, it’s a right. Over the past 6 yrs I’ve held leadership roles within nonprofit organizations focused on hunger relief and youth work. A few years ago I learned of Lovin’ Spoonfuls and fell in love with the mission. It’s so simple– take wasted food and put it in the hands of folks who are struggling to secure their next meal. I kept an eye on their job postings, and… Here I am today!

 

What things have stood out to you since joining Lovin’ Spoonfuls?

I’m really impressed with the sense of hospitality that’s infused in to our work, and in turn the overwhelming support we receive from local chefs and restaurants to drive our mission forward. We are incredibly (let me repeat, INCREDIBLY) fortunate to have so many amazing partners throughout Greater Boston who rally behind our mission, and come together in the name of food. It’s a beautiful thing.

 

Part of starting the job was to ride-along with several of the FRCs. What was that experience like for you?

It was my “WOW” moment– where I got to see just how much care has been put in to developing a food rescue model that doesn’t feel transactional, but relational. I was so impressed with the detail and care put in to our entire operations– from the savvy, efficient procedures orchestrated by our Operations Manager and COO, to the relationships our FRCs form with beneficiary organizations.  I was also struck by how much beautiful, yummy food we picked up. It really got me thinking about how much food is out there to be rescued…

 

Tell us about being on the Development team at Lovin’ Spoonfuls!

We’re a small team setting out to do big things! We definitely have our work cut out for us, but Lovin’ Spoonfuls isn’t about setting the bar low, so it’s fitting. Right now we are looking to the future, and I’m excited to join the team at such an imperative time.

 

Do your friends and family consider you a good cook? Any signature recipes?

I’m not sure if they consider me a good cook, but it’s definitely a passion of mine! My family usually gives me a hard time for sneaking vegetables into things, like my kale pesto. My husband and I love rummaging through our cookbooks on the weekends to find new recipes to make, and one of our most favorite things in the world is to cook for friends and family– there’s something quite special about sharing a home cooked meal at a table full of people you love!

 

What would we find in your refrigerator right now?

Homemade cauliflower romesco, seltzer, peanut butter, yogurt, spinach, my sourdough starter and a sad kombucha mother that’s been forgotten in the back.

 

What’s your favorite childhood food memory?

My mom used to make our favorite dinners on our birthdays or for special occasions, and she served it on this red plate that said “You Are Special Today”. It was a tradition in our house, and my siblings and I always looked forward to it. I’m the oldest of 5 in my family, so sometimes it became a competition!

 

Has this job made you more aware of your own consumption habits? Have you made any significant changes as a result?

I’ve had the privilege of being close friends with some zero waste people (ie, people who make it a goal to create NO trash or waste in their life) so I feel like food waste wasn’t unfamiliar when I joined the team. However, I definitely spend more time thinking about it now, particularly how I might be able to share some tips on reducing food waste. A lot of people don’t understand the magnitude of how much good food is wasted, or creative ways to use scraps in the kitchen.

 

What’s your favorite place/restaurant/neighborhood in Boston?

I lived in Central Square in Cambridge for over 6 years, and I just absolutely love its character.  My husband and I are in love with Pammy’s right now.

 

Who are your heroes?

Oh, what a question! I can’t think of any one person right now, but I am always really inspired by people who share their personal struggles. I think vulnerability and openness is something that we take for granted– it takes a lot of courage! I also think it can be a huge connector, and can help others feel like they aren’t alone in whatever they’re going through.

From the Driver’s Seat: a food rescue family

 

Mary Bilecki joined the Lovin’ Spoonfuls team as a Food Rescue Coordinator in November 2017.

When Lovin’ Spoonfuls hired me six months ago I was brought on as a ‘floater’ — one of two Food Rescue Coordinators (FRC’s) who rotates across all seven truck routes including the greater Boston area and Metrowest. As a floater, I drive every truck, rescue food from all of our 70+ vendors, get to know all of our 150+ beneficiary partners, and work alongside each of our seven outstanding food rescue coordinators. To say I was initially intimidated would be an understatement. Thankfully, today I know that I never have to face a situation alone and that I can always rely on my fellow FRC’s for support.

Our team is always working on optimizing routes for efficiency, and scheduling a clear plan for each day. However, the best days in food rescue are the days where there are surprises when we work together to find the best home for the food we rescue. Food rescue happens fast, food rescue is unpredictable, and food rescue cannot happen without a foundation of passionate, hardworking individuals.

As FRCs, it’s our job to be constantly thinking about where the nutritious, perishable food will wind up. We each have our own toolkit filled with the skills we use to deal with the uncertainty associated with food rescue. As a floater I’ve got the hookup — I get to observe each of my teammates and learn all the best techniques. From how to load the truck to ensure the boxes don’t topple over while merging onto the expressway, to learning that clear communication with beneficiaries and each other is paramount.

Our text thread is full of updates, “Running light today on produce in Marge” “Rose is heavy on dairy and prepared” “Tess has a ton of produce, we can bring some extra to Marge’s beneficiaries” (yes, our trucks are named after the Golden Girls). While I was initially overwhelmed by the logistical details and the sheer amount of how much food the Lovin’ Spoonfuls trucks move each day, these anxieties have eased solely because I know no matter what situation I may face on any given day I have a support system there to help me problem-solve.

It’s a privilege to work alongside such passionate and experienced team members. Between the food rescue coordinators there are decades of experience working for both nonprofits and corporate organizations; in food systems, community development, management and art therapy with a variety of degrees in gastronomy, sociology, anthropology… the list goes on. What we all share is a commitment to fighting food insecurity driven by the knowledge that hunger can be solved by redirecting food waste.  

When I first moved to Boston, it was to start this position working for Lovin’ Spoonfuls. I knew only four people in the area, I didn’t have an apartment and I had no understanding of the city’s layout or New England culture. Lovin’ Spoonfuls welcomed me with open arms and has since taught me so much about Boston, food insecurity, food waste, communication, logistics, and teamwork in an incredibly short amount of time.

 

Help Us Expand to Springfield: Contact your State Reps TODAY!

 

CALL TO ACTION: Lovin’ Spoonfuls needs your help!

Over the coming weeks, the Massachusetts House of Representatives will be debating the FY2019 budget for the Commonwealth. Representative Jose Tosado of Springfield is filing an amendment on behalf of Lovin’ Spoonfuls for $100,000 in state funding to support our expansion into Springfield and surrounding communities. Springfield has long been a priority for us, as it is home to the highest rate of childhood food insecurity in Massachusetts. State support will ensure our successful launch, leading to service to the region for years to come, much like our current operations in the Greater Boston and MetroWest communities.

Please call or email your State Representative before Friday to ask them to support Representative Tosado’s amendment by co-sponsoring. You can find your State Representative by visiting this website, and when you click on their name, you can see their email address and phone number.

Sample script:

Hi, my name is [your name] and I’m a constituent from [your town], and I’m calling to urgently request that you co-sponsor Rep. Jose Tosado’s Amendment to line item#2511-0105 , supporting Lovin’ Spoonfuls’ expansion into Springfield. Springfield is home to the highest rate of childhood food insecurity in the state, and this Amendment will help the region get the services it so desperately needs. Please support Lovin’ Spoonfuls expansion to serve this community. Thank you.”

 

Sample email:

 Copy and paste:

Subject: Please Co-Sponsor Rep. Tosado’s amendment to bring Lovin’ Spoonfuls to Springfield!

Dear Representative ________ ,

My name is _____________ and I am a constituent in _____________.  I am writing in support of Lovin’ Spoonfuls expansion into Springfield, Massachusetts.

Lovin’ Spoonfuls connects food which would otherwise be discarded to the people that need it most. The agency currently serves Eastern Massachusetts, feeding 35,000 people each week. Springfield is home to the highest rate of childhood food insecurity in Massachusetts. The region desperately needs the services and support that Lovin’ Spoonfuls provides.

I respectfully request that you co-sponsor Rep. Jose Tosado’s amendment to line item # 2511-0105 for $100,000 in support of Lovin’ Spoonfuls’ expansion to Springfield.

Thank you for your consideration and the work you do on our behalf.

Sincerely,

Name and Address

 

Thank you for taking the time to support our work with this effort; stay tuned for updates in the coming weeks on our progress and more ways to assist!

The Lovin’ Spoonfuls Team

From Food Rescue to Fundraising: Joel Simonson on switching roles

Joel Simonson joined Lovin’ Spoonfuls as a Food Rescue Coordinator in 2016. In 2017, he became our Development Coordinator. Joel talks about how both jobs “do something positive.” 

 

What is your role at Lovin’ Spoonfuls?

I am the Development Coordinator at Lovin’ Spoonfuls.

 

Tell us about your background.

I am passionate about the mission and work of Lovin’ Spoonfuls through a health perspective. I studied Biology as an undergraduate at Clark University and for a majority of my studies I was on a Pre-Med track. However, I realized during my junior year that I was more interested in public health and did not want to pursue medical school. I decided I wanted to continue my education at Clark and I enrolled in a graduate program for Environmental Science and Policy, where I focused on the relationships between public health and access to nutritious food.   

 

How does your prior role influence your current work?

My prior role as a Food Rescue Coordinator has a significant influence over my current work. Through writing grants and having conversations with individuals who support our work, I am able to share my experiences with our vendor and beneficiary partners. Personally, I like to tell stories, and now I have the chance to share the impact of our work through a variety of channels.

 

You’re the first person in our agency history that has worked across both Operations and Development. What was the biggest adjustment?

I think the biggest adjustment is the perspective in which I view our work. To me, every day as a Food Rescue Coordinator was like a puzzle. I needed to determine how to best fit the boxes of fresh food in the truck, but also how to appropriately distribute the food amongst the beneficiary agencies. In addition, it was an opportunity to physically see our work in action. On the Development team, I view our work through the metrics of our impact, such as the amount of food we rescue and the number of people we can serve per every dollar raised, but also how we have increased our capacity over the last few years.     

 

What is your favorite part of the job?

My favorite part of the job, and really my favorite part about being at Lovin’ Spoonfuls, is the unique opportunity to do something positive. I think there are two sides to this feeling. On one hand, supporting our fundraising efforts allows our team to rescue and distribute more fresh food to those who need it the most. That alone is an incredible feeling. However, I have also been able to share our work with friends, family, and friends of my family who had no idea that food rescue was even a thing. Both make me thrilled to be a part of Lovin’ Spoonfuls and the Development team.    

 

Who are your heroes?

I know it sounds cliche, but my grandparents are definitely my heroes. Hands down. Through their own experiences, they taught me what it means to work hard, love your family, and enjoy life. They always supported me in my endeavors and were always present, both physically and emotionally, during my upbringing. I would not be the person I am today if it were not for them. 

From the Driver’s Seat: Our Unsung Heroes

By Deb Hicks

It’s Monday morning and Reggie and I have just completed our first delivery. As we pull away, I’m already on the phone with our next stop.

“Receiving.”

“Good morning, Dave. It’s Deb with Lovin’ Spoonfuls.”

“All right. I’ll let ‘em know!”

Deb Hicks, an FRC with Lovin’ Spoonfuls since 2016, with Dave Gerry

Within minutes we are backing up to the dock at Roche Bros. in Needham. Inside, Dave Gerry, the lead receiver, greets us and gives us the lowdown, checklist style. “OK. So here you’ve got your meals; two bags of bread; produce is right there on the cart. Dairy is on its way, and there’s a lot of meat today. It’s gonna feed a lot of people.”

We respond with gratitude as we quickly get to work. This day is no exception to the average day; the cornucopia in front of us easily amounts to over 600 pounds of healthy, fresh food. Dave’s comment, “it’s gonna feed a lot of people,” could not be more true. It’s not only a welcome reminder of just how important every pear and potato is, but it’s also a declaration of his commitment to our work.

Dave is not our only supporter — the contributions come from every department. As we cull the produce and begin loading the truck, other employees stop to say hello and exchange a few friendly words. Over the 2+ years that fellow FRC Reggie has been going to the Needham Roche Bros. on a near-daily basis, it is clear that he is as much a part of their community as they are. And they are, without a doubt, an integral part of the Lovin’ Spoonfuls family.

Conversations and our loading process wrap-up, and we are ready to head off to our next stop. We roll the carts back inside, with a few items left on board (a punctured tomato, a leaky gallon of milk). If Dave isn’t busy, we won’t make it far before he hollers, “leave it there! I’ll take care of it.” We shout our appreciation and goodbyes, and a few moments later we’re back on the road.

Around the same time that we are leaving Roche Bros Needham, Food Rescue Coordinators Jacob and Mary are heading to the Westwood location. Things work like clockwork at this store as well. A call in advance is all it takes, and our friends in the produce department put out the word. Upon arrival, the FRC’s find the entrance barricaded with rescued food. Carts piled with boxes, and stacks of crates are just inside the vinyl strip curtain, as easily accessible as possible without being exposed to the elements. All aboard, and they’re off.


Westwood is a relatively quick stop for Jacob and Mary, thanks to the time that has already been put into preparing for the pickup. If it weren’t for the collaboration of team members from each and every department, our stopping there would not be so fruitful. In Westwood, Tina Walty, who, like Dave, has been working with Lovin Spoonfuls since day one of our partnership with Roche Bros., confirms that “everyone is involved.” Food that is donated does not just go from a store shelf to a box; rather, it must pass a quality-check, and be scanned out. In the past, good food would often go into an organic waste dumpster or the trash. “Throwing things in the trash when it’s still edible was heartbreaking,” says Tina.

These stores are just two examples of food rescue at its best. Given our 70+ vendor partners, you can imagine that there are dozens of extraordinary individuals working and advocating for us everyday. There’s Patti at Trader Joe’s in Brookline who will cut open a bag of oranges to pull out the one that’s rotten before setting the others aside for us. And Joe at Whole Foods in Charlestown who, upon our arrival, stops what he’s doing to retrieve prepared foods from a different part of the store.

There’s Charlie at Star Market in Brighton who helped convince the produce and dairy departments to start donating (what is now hundreds of pounds each day!). The record-breaking numbers we have been reaching are a clear testament to the dedication of these individuals. The 60,000+ pounds we have been averaging each week is not made up of pallets of pumpkins; rather, it adds up slowly, one apple, one orange, one onion at a time, each picked off the shelf, each scanned out as to be accounted for, and each boxed and stored properly. All of this is done by the incredible men and women who work at these stores.

Dave, Tina, and all the others are the unsung heroes of what we do – the humble helpers who make our job possible. They don’t necessarily get to see the smiles or hear the heartwarming stories when handing out the food, but they understand the importance of their role in it, even on the busiest of days of the year.

“It’s gonna feed a lot of people!”

“It sure is!” I reply to Dave, who proudly dons a Lovin’ Spoonfuls hat. In fact, it’s gonna help feed 35,000 people this week.

“Thanks for everything, Dave. And you have a Spoonfuls sweatshirt too, don’t you?” I asked as an afterthought, just to confirm.

“No. I haven’t got it.”

“Double XL,” he adds a moment later, a sparkle in his eye.

 

Meet Mary!

 

 

Mary Bilecki is a Food Rescue Coordinator who joined our team in November.

 

How did you arrive at Lovin’ Spoonfuls?

After finishing an AmeriCorps year of service in Central Vermont I was looking for job opportunities following a similar thread of the work I had been doing. In Vermont, I worked as a gleaning coordinator for a small non-profit, doing similar work as I do now as a Food Rescue Coordinator for Lovin’ Spoonfuls. I worked directly with small-scale farmers to harvest their surplus produce with volunteers and deliver it to deserving beneficiaries. This experience in Vermont solidified my passion for working towards a food system focused on equal access to nutritional food.

Tell us about your background! How did you become interested in food rescue?

Growing up, my mother helped to start a CSA across the street from my childhood home. Our fridge was always full of beautiful fruits and vegetables, and our family cooked dinner together almost every night. I’ve always known my relationship and experience with food to be meaningful, but learning about the excess of food in our society alongside the staggering rates of hunger…these facts have struck a chord in me to change our nation’s food system.

What passions do you bring to the job?

Growing up as a daughter of two scientists in a household that composted before it was trendy, survived off of leftovers, and never turned the heat above 65, I’ve always tried my best to live a sustainable life. Being able to incorporate these passions into a career with an organization with similar values is really meaningful.

Have there been any surprises for you in the food you rescue? 

Overall, I am constantly astonished by the sheer amount, variety, and quality of food that is rescued. Occasionally we rescue high-end items that can be a fun surprise for our beneficiaries, such as duck leg confit, truffles, fancy cheeses, and filet mignon!

Do your friends and family consider you a good cook? Any signature recipes?

Coming from a family of creative cooks and friends who love delicious food I think most people in my life are really good at cooking and I’d include myself in that statement! I crave salty foods and my homemade Caesar salad dressing usually satiates that craving, I also love making fried chicken because…fried chicken!

What would we find in your refrigerator right now?

Kimchi, leftover eggplant parmesan, and some yummy cheeses to snack on.

What’s your favorite childhood food memory?

Annual Oyster Roasts by the creek with family in Charleston, South Carolina accompanied by Frogmore Stew (kielbasa, corn, and shrimp boil)!

Has this job made you more aware of your own consumption habits? Have you made any significant changes as a result?

I’ve always felt pretty confident about my seasonal eating habits and responsible use of meat, fruits and vegetables. This job has inspired me to be less picky when I go to grocery store and to buy items that might be bruised or close to expiration (since its likely to be donated or tossed anyway).

Who are your heroes?

My parents and sister because they inspire me to think globally and act locally everyday.

8 Million and Growing!

 

This week, Lovin’ Spoonfuls reached another milestone — we rescued our 8 MILLIONTH pound of food! That’s over a billion more calories since August that our team has picked up and distributed to hungry people across Eastern Massachusetts. We’re so proud of our amazing food rescue coordinators who make it all happen!

Vinny started towards Monday’s milestone by rescuing 512 pounds from Costco in Everett, while Cathy rescued 305 pounds of food from Target in Watertown.

Meanwhile, Anthony, who runs our MetroWest route, rescued 211 pounds from Hannaford Supermarket in Marlborough.

Lisa picked up a whopping 700 pounds at Whole Foods South End, and Reggie rescued 647 pounds from Roche Bros. Wellesley. And let’s not forget Vinny, whose pick-up at Wegman’s Burlington topped 930 pounds! Finally, Jacob and our newest FRC Mary collected over 400 pounds of fresh produce and proteins from Big Y in Norwood, putting us over the 8 million mark (and over 17,000 pounds for the day!)

We are rescuing more food than ever, thanks to our dedicated partners, allowing us to reach more communities and feed more people. Here’s to the next million!

 

Thank You for an Incredible 7th Annual Ultimate Tailgate Party!

 

We are thrilled to report that the 2017 Ultimate Tailgate Party was our most successful fundraiser yet. Your support helped us raise nearly $375,000! It was a spectacular end to a record-breaking week in which we rescued 63,113 pounds of food! Bravo to EVERYONE!

On Sunday evening we welcomed more than 500 supporters to Flynn Cruiseport Boston at Black Falcon Terminal for our 7th annual event. We were proud to be represented by over 25 sponsors, including Credit SuisseCafco Construction, Michael & Susan Delaney, Randi & Joel Cutler with Larry & Judi Bohn, and Dorothy Puhy!  We also had a record number of volunteers this year, all of whom were amazing and spirited — we thank you all!

We especially want to thank our Host Committee, this year chaired by Board Member Adam Amontea. Our dear friend Andrew Zimmern welcomed everyone to the VIP hour and spoke personally about his affiliation and role within Lovin’ Spoonfuls. Our dynamite COO Lauren Palumbo proudly and passionately spoke about the year’s operational milestones, organizational goals, and inspired the crowd to get to know who we are, and why our model works.

Our VIP celebration closed with a touching video honoring Board member, and 2017 Thomas M. Menino Award for Leadership honoree, Andy Youniss. Ashley Stanley, Lovin’ Spoonfuls founder and executive director, presented him with this year’s recognition:

“We honor our friend and late Mayor’s life and legacy with this award. It recognizes those who hold the same ideals that he did – ideals that connect service, community and food. Tonight, we proudly honor Andy Youniss.”

We were lucky enough to have filmmaker and friend Jon Mercer produce this incredible tribute piece to Andy, with testimonials from colleague Jay Leader, and Chef Colin Lynch (stay tuned for details on an upcoming workshop with Colin at Eataly Boston to kick off our chef workshop series! Tickets will go on sale soon).

 

Attendees enjoyed food from incredible chefs and restaurants from Providence up to Portland, and TJ Connelly spun the party soundtrack of the year! Our silent auction scrolled on screens throughout the space as folks tried to outbid each other on trips ranging from Hawaii to Nantucket and Los Angeles, rare wine lots, and unique sports and dining experiences.

After another short video about our work, Andrew Zimmern again took the mic — and our favorite emcee brought the house down with an emotional plea for food justice, and for support on our behalf. We raised more than $60,000 in just a few minutes, and ended by our generous 50/50 raffle winner donating her winnings back to the organization!

Each truck we put on the road rescues 400,000 lbs of fresh, healthy food each year — and we keep them on the road with your support. Follow along on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook as we post photos from the party in the coming days. If you couldn’t attend, or would like to support our work and learn more about what we do and why, visit us here.

From the Driver’s Seat: food insecurity right here at home

Vinny, a Food Rescue Coordinator, joined the Lovin’ Spoonfuls team in 2017.

Every Monday, East End House in Cambridge receives a delivery from Lovin’ Spoonfuls for their emergency food pantry, just a couple blocks from where my sister and I would run amuck at my uncle’s dentist office as children. Every Tuesday, Salvation Army Mystic Valley counts on us to supplement their donation bags with fresh produce, right on the same stretch of road I would skateboard down as a mischievous middle-schooler. It’s right down the street from where I grew up — and where I currently live.

One of the benefits of being a floating Food Rescue Coordinator is getting to see the Greater Boston area every day with my co-workers. As a proud New Englander and self-described “townie,” I can’t help but look around as I drive along. I’m sure that drives my co-workers mad, as I remember places and events along the way. “That’s where my father would take me bowling,” I’m sure I’ve said to multiple eyerolls as we rumble past Boston Bowl on our way to Catholic Charities Dorchester. “That’s where I would play mini-golf every summer,” I’ve no doubt said to blank stares driving through Stoneham on our way to Metro North Children’s Learning Center.

It’s easy to forget that Lovin’ Spoonfuls goes beyond Boston (due to their presence in the city proper), but we service 38 cities and towns in Massachusetts. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, low income in our national suburbs grew by 65 percent between 2000 and 2014, more than twice the pace in cities. And, the number of people living in poverty in the suburbs surpassed the numbers of urban poor earlier in the 21st century. The number of families living in poverty in Essex County is nearly 19 percent, while Middlesex County is close to 13 percent. It is easier to see the effects of food insecurity in the city of Boston, but the numbers tell a simple story that is easy to forget: the reach of poverty and food insecurity is wide.

Growing up in a big Italian family in Everett, food was not a luxury, it was a habit. Every activity had to be accompanied by food, and every meal had to feed a small army (and you should feel loathsome towards your existence for the amount of food consumed).

It took me until middle school to really see what food insecurity was doing to my neighborhood. I knew my friends were poor, but I never viewed food as something that wasn’t a normal occurrence until I  dragged along one of my friends to dinner at my grandparents’ home. The copious amounts of chicken cutlets, mashed potatoes, fresh fruit, green salad, gnocchi, green beans, and other superfluous edibles spilled over the table, and I yawned, but my friend hemmed and hawed. It was a sight he had never bore witness to, and his gums for certain would not cease flapping letting me know. For days he talked about it, letting me know that his family just didn’t eat that way, that he was lucky to get meat some days, that he sometimes only had his free school breakfast and lunch other days.

I never forgot that, and I always invited my friend back for dinner when I had the opportunity. I was young at the time, but it felt good inviting someone in to share.

That’s how I feel now, too. As I visit all the neighborhoods I’ve grown up in for Lovin’ Spoonfuls, I feel like I am inviting people in to share with us. I may not know each person we are feeding personally this time, but they are part of my community, the Boston community, and the global community. There’s plenty for everyone.

 

Meet Sean!

Sean Ahern joined our team in June as Operations Manager.

How did you arrive at Lovin’ Spoonfuls?
I had been working in the restaurant industry in Boston for many years and learned about its mission which really resonated with me.  Lovin’ Spoonfuls has some really great partnerships within the hospitality industry, and I had heard and seen great things about the organization’s mission, culture and dedication to serving the city I love so much.  It was a natural step for me to transition from serving people at tables and bars, to serving the community at large.

Do your friends and family consider you a good cook? Any signature recipes? 
Yes, at least that’s what they tell me!   I don’t have too many signature recipes that I cook all the time as I like to adjust to the seasons and what I’m in the mood for.  If I had to choose one recipe though, it would be a Thai coconut & curry soup.  It’s great in the summer, but has enough heat that it warms you right up on cold winter nights.

What would we find in your refrigerator right now?
Assorted produce from our garden and our CSA, chicken thighs, eggs, orange juice, milk, Marie Sharp’s Belizean Heat hot sauce, fish sauce, and spicy mustard.

What’s your favorite childhood food memory?
I was fortunate to live in the Netherlands for a year when I was in elementary school.  I remember eating freshly made poffertjes from street vendors.  They are miniature Dutch pancakes made in cast iron pans, basted in butter and covered with powdered sugar.

Has this job made you more aware of your own consumption habits? Have you made any significant changes as a result?
Yes, I do a much more thoughtful approach to our weekly grocery purchases.  We have been keeping less in our fridge and picking some of the “ugly” fruits and vegetables.

What’s your favorite place/restaurant/neighborhood in Boston?
East Boston for sure.  It’s such a unique neighborhood in the city with some great restaurants.  From Angela’s Café to Rino’s Place you can’t go wrong…

What is your motto? 
Just chill and be you

Who are your heroes?
Alice Waters, Paul Pierce and anyone who teaches me new things

Meet Gabriela!

Gabriela joined our team in early 2017 as an Accounts Payable and Administrative Coordinator. 

How did you arrive at Lovin’ Spoonfuls?
I was searching for a new opportunity and found a job posting on Idealist.org. I remember spending all night writing my cover letter over and over again because I wanted the position so bad! I loved Lovin’ Spoonfuls’ mission, the location, and the job responsibilities were up my alley.

Do your friends and family consider you a good cook? Any signature recipes? 

Over the years I’ve grown to secretly love cooking. Actually, its more of a love/hate relationship. Last year I hosted Thanksgiving at my place and wanted to cook everything without any help. Everyone was so impressed. They’re even asking me to make the ham again. I have no idea how I am going to pull that off because I literally had two recipes in front of me, notes of my old colleagues favorite ingredients, and just winged it! We will see how it comes out this year. But my signature recipe has to be pollo guisado con arroz blanco – stewed chicken with white rice.

What would we find in your refrigerator right now?
Yogurt, milk, OJ, salami, cheese, and spinach (my son’s ‘Veggie in Trial’ for this week), and beer… there’s always some kind of beer in there.

What’s your favorite childhood food memory?

If my brother and I were woken up to a “clapping” sound at 5am, it meant one thing and one thing only, my mom was making pupusas. Pupusas are a Salvadorean dish of a tortilla with filling. My favorite is pork and cheese. It’s accompanied by curtido and served with homemade tomato sauce. Or another favorite memory is waking up on Christmas Eve to all the spices of tamales filling the air. Christmas isn’t Christmas without tamales in our household!

Has this job made you more aware of your own consumption habits? Have you made any significant changes as a result?

It has! I have a picky eater at home and I’m constantly buying new veggies for him to try. But sometimes some veggies get pushed to the back of the fridge and when I finally remember them, they aren’t good anymore. Now, I only buy two types of “trial” veggies, that way I’m not tossing so many veggies.

 

What’s your favorite place/restaurant/neighborhood in Boston?

I love checking out the different restaurants in East Boston. It makes me feel like I am back where my parents grew up.


What is your motto?

There’s always room for dessert!


Who are your heroes?

Without a doubt, my mom is my hero. If I could be half the woman she is, I’ll consider myself blessed! I grew up in a tight knit family and despite the good and bad times, I never saw her give up. I love you mom!

From the Driver’s Seat: Counting on More Than Calories

 

Jacob is a food rescue coordinator who joined Lovin’ Spoonfuls in 2016.

By Jacob Matz

Every Wednesday at 11:30 AM, a Lovin’ Spoonfuls truck pulls up a narrow residential street in Dorchester’s Fields Corner and stops in front of an apartment building. The building is nondescript, it looks a lot like the rest of the brick buildings on the block, but inside is a shelter run by nonprofit Heading Home, which offers transitional and emergency housing to families facing homelessness.

The truck unloads three or four boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables, a couple of boxes of bread and baked goods, some prepared salads and sandwiches, some milk, a box of dairy items – mostly yogurts — and a box of frozen meat. The food is quickly taken inside to a kitchen where it is separated, sorted, and distributed to the several families living at house.

Food insecurity does not exist in a vacuum. It exists alongside of a myriad of concrete, material uncertainties. It is rooted in an economic reality that makes necessities like housing, healthcare, childcare, and access to sustainable employment opportunities inaccessible and unpredictable for so many while simultaneously providing a sense of security in these things for a few.

Lovin’ Spoonfuls partners with organizations like Heading Home who confront these realities on a daily basis and work to offer security for those facing uncertainty. As partners, our responsibility is to target and reduce one aspect of precarity by reliably providing a high-quality supply of food that our partners can count on from week-to-week.

When I describe my job as a food rescue coordinator to people unfamiliar with Lovin’ Spoonfuls, it sounds simple — we bring fresh, excess foods that would otherwise go to waste from grocery stores, farms, and wholesalers to places like shelters, food pantries, and community centers. Food rescue sounds pretty cut and dry.

But to really confront food insecurity, and to create equitable and sustainable relationships with our community partners, food rescue has to be organized, predictable, and consistent. It requires well-thought out schedules that are geographically reasonable and connect people to culturally-relevant foods.

Our days have to be planned to suit our partners’ needs – we want to bring food exactly when it makes sense for our community partners, and we want to rescue food when it makes the most sense for our vendors. Our daily food rescue schedule has to be compatible with the schedules of multiple organizations’ that have diverse, and often divergent, needs. Overcoming this challenge is a seemingly mundane aspect of Lovin’ Spoonfuls’ work, but when we are successful, it results in a consistent flow of healthy, beautiful foods to our partners from week to week.

When we are successful, we reduce uncertainty.



If you take a look back through prior “From the Driver’s Seat” blog posts, you’ll find a common theme: this team is unwavering in their dedication to bringing the right food to the right people. When we are presented with a box of food at a farm or grocery store, we quickly know which partner organization can use the food, and we do our best to direct the food in a way that best serves our respective partners’ mission. What we do not want to do is show up to a community center one week with frozen meats, the next week with pre-made sandwiches, and with a box of cut-up pineapple the next.

We do our best to diminish uncertainties, rather than exacerbate them, by keeping a tight schedule and working closely with our partners to learn their specific needs. As such, our partners are increasingly building their programming around the food that we drop off. They are building their schedules around us, and building food programming around the food we rescue. This can only work when they can consistently predict what we’ll be bringing to their door and when we will be bringing it.

Not only do we strive to be predictable, we strive to provide our partners with the ability to choose which foods best serve their needs from week to week and we share in the serendipity of food rescue with our partners. When our partners need cut-up fruit for their afterschool programs, we don’t force them to accept a box of artichokes because we happen to have an abundance of artichokes on the truck. Rather, we organize our routes in such a way that we know when we will likely rescue cut-up fruits and boxes of artichokes and plan our distributions accordingly.

While we work hard to provide consistency, food rescue can be unpredictable. When it is, we share in the surprises. A box of treats – cupcakes, candy, and ice-cream makes its way to a shelter that happens to be having a birthday party for one of the children in the home; a 50 lb box of ground beef is distributed to a community center that happens to be having a cookout the following weekend; and a farmer calls our office to donate 75 fresh turkeys just days before Thanksgiving. These are the most exciting moments of food rescue, and we are happy when the food we rescue can make a special experience that much better.

Consistency may not seem like a very exciting story, but it’s what makes Lovin’ Spoonfuls work. It allows our partners to rely on us to walk up to their doors with fresh food choices on the same day, at the same time – every week. Predictability creates trust, and trusting partners can work together to confront and reduce the uncertainty surrounding food insecurity.

Consistency also allows us to build relationships with our vendors, who can rely on us to be on time and to rescue as much of their food waste as possible during every visit.  It is a critical aspect of what we do, and it is our main concern when we are on the road. Life is precarious for a lot of people. Access to food itself is precarious – even in places that are situated in seemingly endless abundance. We have a responsibility to address this material reality by doing everything in our power to maintain consistency.

Wasted Food Means Wasted Nutrients

Did you know that Lovin’ Spoonfuls has rescued in excess of 7 BILLION calories since it began?

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has calculated the nutritional value of the food we waste, and their results are astounding.

 

*Below is from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health online.

View the article

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future calculated the nutritional value of food wasted in the U.S. at the retail and consumer levels, shining a light on just how much protein, fiber and other important nutrients end up in the landfill in a single year.

These lost nutrients are important for healthy diets, and some — including, dietary fiber, calcium, potassium and vitamin D — are currently consumed below recommended levels. Nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, seafood and dairy products are wasted at disproportionately high rates.

Previous research estimated that as much as 40 percent of food is wasted nationally, but it wasn’t clear before this study how nutritious that food was. While not all wasted food is consumable, a sizeable amount is, leaving researchers and policymakers looking for ways to minimize the amount of good food that gets tossed as millions of Americans go hungry, do not get enough nutrients or do not have access to healthy food options. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Environmental Protection Agency have set a goal of reducing food waste by 50 percent by 2030.

The findings are available online in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

“Huge quantities of nutritious foods end up in landfills instead of meeting Americans’ dietary needs,” says study lead author Marie Spiker, MSPH, RD, a CLF-Lerner Fellow at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and a doctoral candidate in the Bloomberg School’s Department of International Health. “Our findings illustrate how food waste exists alongside inadequate intake of many nutrients.”

For their study, the researchers calculated the nutritional value of the retail- and consumer-level food waste of 213 commodities in 2012, using data from the USDA’s Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data series. The research team, looking at 27 nutrients in all, found that food wasted in the U.S. food supply that year contained 1,217 calories, 33 grams of protein, 5.9 grams of dietary fiber, 1.7 micrograms of vitamin D, 286 milligrams calcium and 880 milligrams potassium per person, per day.

Nutrient loss estimates provided by this study could contribute to a baseline for measuring future progress, the authors say.

The study also highlights how the amount of nutrients lost to waste compares to nutritional deficits in the typical American diet. For example, dietary fiber is important for maintaining digestive health and is found in grains, vegetables and fruits. Researchers estimate that, in 2012, food wasted each day contained upwards of 1.8 billion grams of dietary fiber, which is comparable to the full recommended intake for dietary fiber for 73.6 million adult women. American women under-consumed dietary fiber by 8.9 grams per day in 2012. The study found that the daily amount of wasted dietary fiber is equivalent to the amount needed to fill this nutritional gap for as many as 206.6 million adult women.

Many factors contribute to food waste at both the retail and consumer levels, including the disposal of food due to aesthetic standards, large portion sizes, and management of perishables in fridges and pantries. There is currently great energy around efforts to address the waste of food. Preventing waste at the source is considered to be the optimal approach. Strengthening food recovery efforts that bring surplus food to food banks and pantries is also an important area of effort, innovation and impact.

“This study offers us new ways of appreciating the value of wasted food. While not all food that is wasted could or should be recovered, it reminds us that we are dumping a great deal of high quality, nutritious food that people could be enjoying,” says Roni Neff, PhD, an assistant professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Environmental Health and Engineering who oversaw the study and directs the CLF’s Food System Sustainability & Public Health Program. “We should keep in mind that while food recovery efforts are valuable, food recovery doesn’t get to the heart of either the food insecurity problem or the waste problem. We need strategies addressing these challenges at multiple levels.”

Wasted Food, Wasted Nutrients: Nutrient loss from wasted food in the US and comparison to gaps in dietary intake” was written by Marie L. Spiker, Hazel A. B. Hiza, Sameer M. Siddiqi and Roni A. Neff.

This research was funded by the GRACE Communications Foundation. M. L. Spiker and S. M. Siddiqi were also supported by the CLF-Lerner Fellowship.

Sip and Savor: Negroni Week is Here!

Negroni Week is back, and this year there are even more amazing restaurants supporting Lovin’ Spoonfuls! Visit participating restaurants this week, June 5th-June 11th, order a Negroni and support our work in the process! Presented by Imbibe Magazine and Campari, the event is a week-long campaign to raise money for charitable causes, and Lovin’ Spoonfuls is proud to be a featured organization!

The Negroni, a scrumptious Italian cocktail made of gin, Campari and sweet vermouth, is a classic summer cocktail, and this is the perfect week to add them to your cocktail repertoire (find even more recipe inspirations here).

If you’re not sure where kick off the week, we want to point out our friends at Brick and Mortar and Central Kitchen, who are going above and beyond this week by donating 100 percent of their Negroni sales to Lovin’ Spoonfuls! Each dollar raised for Lovin’ Spoonfuls feeds one person 3 pounds of food — enough for an entire day!

Don’t miss these delicious events this week, too (and make sure to visit one of the participating restaurants below)!

A4Cade
Area 4
Banyan Bar & Refuge
Bar Mezzana
Brass Union
Brick & Mortar
Casa B
Central Kitchen
Coppa
Deuxave
Drink
Eataly Boston
En Boca
Franklin Café
Grafton Street
La Brasa
Lion’s Tail
Menton
Mida
No. 9 Park
Noir
Park Restaurant & Bar Pasta Beach
Pastoral
River Bar
South End Buttery
State Street Provisions Steel & Rye
Sycamore
Tavern Road
Temple Bar
The Biltmore Bar & Grille The Ellis Room
The Four Seasons
The Hourly
The Independent
The Maiden
Toro
Townsman
Trina’s Starlight Lounge

From the Driver’s Seat: we are all connected through food

Joel is one of our Greater Boston drivers, and has been with Lovin’ Spoonfuls since 2016.

 

Lasagna with zucchini, squash, red peppers, and dollops of ricotta. Salmon with a mustard and dill sauce that I have only seen my mother make. Chicken noodle soup — or better yet, Grandma’s matzo ball soup — that brought warmth and comfort to me on any day.

These are just a few of the meals that were constants during my upbringing. From using recipes that were passed through generations, to indulging myself in a dish that I cooked with my family, food has always played a major role in my life.

I am fortunate enough to say that I do not remember a time when food was not available in my home. I could open up the refrigerator and have a plethora of options. Fruit? No problem. Veggies with hummus? Definitely a household staple. Leftovers from dinner? Well, that depended on if my other family members beat me to it. Besides the great sense of pleasure when eating these treats, the experiences of enjoying good food are what stand out to me the most. I think it is safe to say we can all remember a time when we ate delicious food.

Food is one of the great equalizers — we all need it, we all share it, and we all bond over it. Connecting over food is the best part of being a driver for me, especially with people from different backgrounds, and each day to those who do not have reliable, consistent access to food.

Barbara and Joan from Servant’s Heart Pantry rave to me about the foods that go over well with their clients: cups of fresh fruit, half-gallons of milk, and pre-made sandwiches, to name a few. At 12 Step in Woburn, Russell and the gentlemen there tell me about the weekend barbeques they have with the cuts of meat I deliver. And at Catholic Charities in Somerville, I know that Mary loves her yogurts (like me), because we talk about our favorites (especially what we mix-in for making a parfait). These are the conversations that fill me with joy when driving around.

Most of the people I work with at beneficiary agencies I only get to see once a week. And in the five-to-ten minutes of distributing food at these agencies, the opportunity to interact and learn more about each other does not always present itself. But that is where food comes in. Food rescue is not just about diverting totally edible food from landfills, it is about the shared experiences that food brings to the table.

Meet Alisa!!

Alisa Feinswog joined our development team part-time in 2016, but has recently become a full-time member of the Spoonfuls team! She is our Development Associate.

How did you arrive at Lovin’ Spoonfuls?
I saw an ad posting on Idealist that aligned with my interests and skill set. I didn’t hear back for awhile, so I emailed to be sure that LS received my application and got an interview! The rest is history.


Do your friends and family consider you a good cook? Any signature recipes? 
I like to cook and experiment with new spices. I cook very simply–vegetables, grains, and sauces. Sometimes, it turns out great! Other times…

What would we find in your refrigerator right now?
Produce, a lot of cheese, and leftovers from a potluck with friends.


What’s your favorite childhood food memory?
Every Sunday, my family would go to the farmer’s market back home in San Diego.  Some weeks, my dad would try to strike a deal with vendors — he’d buy all of the leftover stone fruit at the end of the market to make pies for his office.  Whenever he succeeded in making this deal, my brothers and I knew we had a lot of work ahead of us!

Has this job made you more aware of your own consumption habits? Have you made any significant changes as a result?
Yes, now I have serious guilt when food goes bad in my fridge. I’ve started freezing more things and thinking about who I can give food to if I’m going away, for example.
 
What’s your favorite place/restaurant/neighborhood in Boston?
Dave’s Fresh Pasta in Davis Square.  Their roasted veggie and goat cheese sandwich is amazing. They also always have interesting cheese samples.

What is your motto?
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” -Martin Luther King, Jr.
 
Who are your heroes?
My parents are my heroes. I also see Will Allen, author of The Good Food Revolution and founder of Growing Power as my hero regarding food access.  He is credited for starting the urban agriculture movement in the United States, especially in vulnerable communities. Very inspiring.

6 million strong

We’re so excited to announce that this week Lovin’ Spoonfuls rescued its 6,000,000th pound of food! It’s been 7 years in the making, and we’re grateful to all of our partners and supporters who helped get us to this incredible milestone.

On Monday, our team of 8 drivers picked more than 13,631 pounds of food from a total of 42 vendors, distributing to 36 individual beneficiary agencies across eastern Massachusetts and MetroWest. Here are some of the highlights leading up to the big moment!

Cathy & Deb started their day at our new partner Star Market Brighton, picking up nearly 150 pounds of fresh fruits, vegetables, and dairy.

 

Meanwhile, Reggie’s day began at Sudbury Farms in Needham, and driver Lisa had a morning stop at partner Eataly Boston! Anthony’s first stop was Big Y in Milford, where he loaded 434 pounds of fresh, healthy food onto Mamie, our MetroWest truck.

Jacob and Vinny collected 374 pounds at Roche Bros. Westwood, and several hundred more pounds of beautiful, fresh produce at their sister store in West Roxbury. Finally, Joel picked up a whopping 773 pounds of produce, dairy, proteins, and bread from Target in Everett, carrying us well past the 6 million mark!

 

March also toppled our previous monthly record with over 225,000 pounds of food rescued. Please help us keep the momentum by considering giving to Lovin’ Spoonfuls today so that we can surpass our 2017 goal of rescuing 2.5 million pounds of food! 

 

From the Driver’s Seat: A Food Waste Cynic

Lisa Allen, one of our Greater Boston area food rescue drivers, reflects on her experiences with food waste.

I was a total cynic, so I don’t pretend to be an expert in food waste. I know the statistics, we all do — 40% of food in America gets wasted, and one in seven families doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from. Before I took a job as a driver for Lovin’ Spoonfuls, my only exposure to food rescue was in visits to Grandma’s. Maybe it was a combination of living through the Great Depression and being Italian, but in her home the slogan may as well have been “No food left behind.” Our meals would consist of warming up every item in her fridge in small bowls, and noshing until it was all gone. I regarded her fridge with trepidation, but it ALL was always delicious and perfect. It was on these trips that I realized food has a much longer lifespan than I was giving it credit for. The wine may be too old to enjoyably consume at Grandma’s, but don’t worry about the dinner spread.  

I speak about my past career (14 years in restaurant management) far too often for anyone’s comfort, but it lays the groundwork for why I didn’t consider myself an expert in food waste. To the contrary, I was skilled at keeping my waste percentage down, but what we did waste filled up entire trash barrels daily. You get used to food waste as an outcome of running a business. A necessary evil. Yeah, you know it’s food. Yeah, you feel bad when you throw it away, but you’re painfully aware if you take it home or give it away your job is at stake. So you become desensitized to it. Except when you get a new employee who eulogizes the food, and you briefly see it as the wasted proteins, fibers, nutrients, and yeah, just empty (but tasty) calories that they are. So you use the opportunity to get that new employee to sample as much of it as you can. You stuff them like a roaster chicken because, “Hey, jackpot! I finally get to put some of this food in a belly.” As an Italian, all I ever want to do is feed people.  

Let me tell you, it’s an awful feeling when you finally break out of the waste stupor.

I’ve always loved food: cooking it, selecting it, menus, cookbooks, Harry and David brochures, you name it! Being a driver for Lovin’ Spoonfuls is much more than a job for me, and I can explain why. I start my day at a Whole Foods in Brookline, where I gather fresh cut fruit, fleshy eggplants, and brown artisan breads, and finish it by delivering ripe tomatoes, fragrant cheeses, cartons full of creamy milk, and beautiful bell peppers to places like Project Place, Brookline Senior Center, and Open Door. I know chopped vegetables from Trader Joe’s are going to go into the Monday soup for Boston Warm, and I know Dimock Academy will love those rib eye steaks I picked up earlier. Heck, I can hardly believe I get to give them away! David from Allston-Brighton Food Pantry can’t believe the cheddar cheese situation. He has enough to make his famous mac and cheese as a side for Wednesday night’s community dinner! It’s a game of Tetris, and I play to win. I love figuring out the perfect foods for the programs that I know will utilize them to the fullest. I deliver food, but I get to drive away with a lot more than that. For the first time in my long career, I feel hopeful. It’s not just about pulling on the right side of the world’s largest game of tug of war for the first time. It’s a combination of walking into a beneficiary and getting that good strong sense of acceptance, tolerance, and goodness. Also knowing you’ve given them some of the tools that they need to successfully run such a positive operation. It refreshes the carbonation in the soda bottle that is my faith in humanity. Which, I know sounds like a goofy statement. And I guess it is…for a former cynic.    

Lisa’s truck, parked behind Whole Foods Brookline

From the Driver’s Seat: Honoring Those Who Served

Our MetroWest Driver, Anthony Summa, reflects on Veterans Day.

 

Working as a food rescue driver for Lovin’ Spoonfuls, I have been able to collaborate with numerous organizations benefiting a wide spectrum of individuals and causes, a major one being veterans assistance. Polling of the agencies we support in the Greater Boston area shows that 65 percent of them currently serve veterans, which gives me great pride, especially with Veterans Day approaching. The statistics surrounding the issue are staggering, with roughly 11 percent of the country’s homeless population being veterans, the majority of which are suffering from mental health issues and/or substance abuse issues. On top of these concerns, many veterans return stateside having to cope with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder and often with little family support and skills that don’t often transfer to civilian life. All of these factors create a situation where those who risked their lives for our country can end up without a home, not knowing where their next meal will come from.

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On the MetroWest route we are able to donate food to Safe Haven, a housing program run by the Bedford VA which helps to “ensure that veterans who have fallen on hard times will not fall through the cracks of VA housing programs”. Safe Haven has 10 rooms and houses veterans who are chronically homeless and who experience issues with mental health or substance abuse. In most VA housing programs, if a resident returns to substance abuse they are discharged and often have nowhere else to go. At Safe Haven, the requirements are a little more lenient, but drug possession/use is restricted from the premises and residents must meet with a case manager on a weekly basis to discuss future housing goals. The program serves as a safe and healthy environment where these veterans can start making better life and health decisions and get themselves back on the right foot, thus improving their quality of life.

I am grateful to have the opportunity to help these guys who may be down on their luck but are genuinely great people. That being said, there are a number of other ways you and I can give back to this over-represented group among the homeless population. The Boston VA has volunteer opportunities in Brockton, West Roxbury, and Jamaica Plain ranging from helping at events or bingo nights, to volunteering to drive vans to ensure veterans get to their medical appointments. The New England Center and Home for Veterans is located in Boston and works to give “veterans who are facing or at-risk of homelessness with the tools for economic self-sufficiency and to provide them a path to achieve successful and dignified independent living.” They run a gift-a-vet program in which you can donate gift cards which provide veterans with much-needed provisions for the holiday season and beyond.

Building Homes for Heroes is a non-profit which builds or modifies homes which are gifted, mortgage-free, to men and women who were injured during their service. The organization also has programs including financial planning services, family funding and emergency support, intended to help these injured veterans plan for their future. You can assist Building Homes for Heroes by volunteering your time or donating materials or equipment, or hosting a fundraising event.

However you choose to help out, make sure to thank each and every veteran you see this year, they are the ones who risked their lives to protect the freedoms we take for granted every single day.

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