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Spotlight On: Ashley Stanley
Ashley Stanley

Q&A with Ashley Stanley, Founder of Lovin’ Spoonfuls

Since founding Lovin’ Spoonfuls in 2010, Ashley and her team have distributed over 1.5 million pounds of fresh, healthy food to those in need. She has created unparalleled awareness for food rescue, with dedication to addressing the significant consequences of food waste. In 2013, the Boston Business Journal named her one of its "40 under 40," which recognizes Boston's most innovative business leaders.

Tell us about Lovin’ Spoonfuls.

We’re a not quite 5 year-old food rescue—we pick up edible, fresh, healthy food that would otherwise be thrown away and deliver it directly to community service entities that feed hungry people. Our 80+ partners are on a set schedule, our vendors (Whole Foods, Hannaford, Trader Joe’s, Wegman’s, farms, wholesalers like Baldor, et al.) know when we will arrive, and our beneficiaries (Pine Street Inn, Rosie’s Place, St. Francis House, networks of domestic violence shelters, New England Center for Homeless Vets, Community Servings, et al.) know when to expect their deliveries.

How is your work different from other anti-hunger programs?

Food waste is a problem that goes way beyond missing a meal. This is about food justice, and I’m the first one to say that hunger relief in its current state, has become an industry that is only successful if hunger continues to exist. It’s an approach that treats the problem, rather than solving the problem. We have to be able to look at this incredibly modern problem of hunger, and start discussing it differently. We have to talk about living wage, other forms of social inequality, the incredibly broken food system that exists in this country and in the world—and we have to be willing to call out the things that don’t work anymore.

Tell us about the work you have been doing in partnership with Project Bread and the Framingham Public Schools.

So many parents rely on school, camp, after-school programs and the like for meals for their children. In the summer, when school’s out, many kids are left without a place to have lunch. With the Summer Meals program partnership with Project Bread, it allows us to distribute the fresh, healthy food that’s available in excess, within the community. We’re grateful to Project Bread for funding this program, and equally excited to again be working with Brendan Ryan (school food service director) and the Framingham school system. Brendan and the staff really get it—and they are cooking delicious and healthy meals with the fresh produce we bring them. It’s just awesome.

What are the biggest misconceptions about your work?

That we only work with restaurants. That you can’t rescue food. That it can’t be repurposed. That it doesn’t make a difference. Listen—the messages are that hunger exists and there is not enough food out there to feed everyone. The truth is that our population is soaring and we throw away 1/3 of our global food supply. I actually think the misconceptions are about hunger itself.

Do you think the environment is becoming more receptive to food rescue?

As you know, Massachusetts is putting the Commercial Food Waste Ban into effect this fall. It shows great progress in terms of how we think about food waste. But, there’s much to be done —and aside from waste reduction, we’ve got to start prioritizing food rescue at the very top of our available options. We’ve been pleased to work with the DEP and MassRecycles on this, and are looking forward to successful implementation with our system. Using food to connect and unite communities is about as human as it gets.

Filed under: Spotlights, Building Sustainable Food Systems