Ashley Stanley: Founder, Lovin' Spoonfuls

Photo by Adam Detour

Lovin’ Spoonfuls feeds 35,000 people with 70,000 pounds of food each a week in the Greater Boston area. All of it is repurposed food that otherwise would go to waste. And all of this—an endeavor that both feeds those in need and combats food waste—is due to the insatiable curiosity and determination of Ashley Stanley.

In 2009, Ashley walked into a Brookline supermarket and on a whim asked to see what was being thrown away. “Now,” she says, “we talk about food waste and food rescue as part of the vernacular.” But then it “wasn’t necessarily commonplace.” A self-described amateur with questions, she had read some of the statistics on food waste online, but didn’t have a visual reference point for how it translated into real life. She just wanted an answer to the question: Where does all that food go? What happens to it?

What Ashley found in the back of that supermarket shocked her—pallets of food that was perfectly good, slated for the dump. She persisted in asking if she could have this food, and finally the manager agreed, if only to get rid of her. She left with a full car and went to the Pine Street Inn. Now the nonprofit she founded provides food to food pantries, children’s programs, recovery programs and many other places.

In some ways it was natural that what became Ashley’s life mission is centered around food. Her grandmother was a Holocaust survivor, and the family understood that food had intrinsic value and was not to be wasted. Sober for 18 years after struggling with heroin addiction, just 40 and recently married, she still sounds a little astonished by Lovin’ Spoonfuls success. “This sort of found me,” she says.

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This story appeared in the Winter 2019 issue.

ALISON ARNETT is a freelance writer, concentrating on food and agricultural topics. She was formerly the restaurant critic and food writer of the Boston Globe. She also teaches a Writing about Food class for Harvard Extension School.