November 26, 2018. By Courtney Summa:

Did you know that over 96 billion pounds of food are wasted each year in the United States? Or that one in five Bostonians is classified as food insecure? As part of our Year of Giving, the Sunday before Thanksgiving I had the opportunity to volunteer for the organization Lovin’ Spoonfuls whose mission is:

“…to facilitate the rescue and distribution of healthy, fresh food that would otherwise be discarded. [They] work to efficiently deliver this food directly to the community organizations and resources where it can have the greatest impact. Lovin’ Spoonfuls is committed to addressing the health, environmental, and economic impact that food waste has on our community.”

What exactly do they do? Every weekday a team of food Rescue Coordinators drive across the Boston and Metro West areas to more than 70 vendors including grocery stores, farms markets, and produce wholesalers.  With the food collected at these locations, the coordinators make a same-day scheduled deliveries to nonprofit agencies in need. These agencies include homeless shelters, crisis centers, after-school programs, veterans service agencies, and elderly service providers. Their primary focus is on gathering perishable, nutritious food for food insecure individuals in our local communities (i.e. individuals lacking reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food).

Sunday was their 8thannual Ultimate Tailgate Party, which is an event they host every year to raise funds to keep their mission alive. If you have not heard of their Ultimate Tailgate Party, the event is a site to behold! With Red Sox and Patriots DJ TJ Connelly spinning tunes and the program being emceed celebrity Chef Andrew Zimmern, attendees enjoy food from over 20 local restaurants along with cocktails, craft beer, and fine wine sponsored by Tito’s Handmake Vodka, Peak organic Brewery, and M.S. Walker. While wining and dining, attendees bid on exclusive food and travel experiences featured on the silent auction while others have fun in the photobooth.

At the event I was a Volunteer Leader. I was tasked with assisting volunteers who were selling 50/50 raffle tickets, those helping attendees make bids in the silent auction, and the volunteers assisting with the yard games in the Tito’s sponsored lounge. There was a great group of volunteers this year, and we all worked hard to help raise as much money as we could for Lovin’ Spoonfuls in our respective roles.

Zimmern gave a wonderful welcome address and one of the most memorable events of the evening happened immediately following. One of the rescue coordinators introduced a woman who has personally benefitted from Lovin’ Spoonfuls and works for one of the many beneficiaries that receive fresh, nutritious food daily. Her story was extremely moving and illustrates the positive impact this organization has on its communities. Working as many hours as she could, her weekly paycheck would only cover rent, leaving all other obligations (car insurance, repairs, clothing and food for her children) to be taken care of still. She gave the example that she would only buy iceberg lettuce because it was cheap. Now, with help of Lovin’ Spoonfuls, she has access to all sorts of fresh greens like spinach and arugula that she otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. Additionally, with the assortment of fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats, and whole grains the coordinators pick up, she can introduce not only her kids but herself to new foods and expand their horizon.  Many of us take for granted the selection we have in our local grocery stores; if we see a simple bruise on an apple, we overlook it. We put it back and find another. But that apple is still perfectly good and should go to someone who needs it. It is the donation of these simple items that help to feed community families.

The 2018 Ultimate Tailgate Party was the most successful tailgate to date. With all the generous donations Lovin’ Spoonfuls was able to raise $375,000. In terms of how that money will directly help the local communities, the funds raised will allow Lovin’ Spoonful to rescue over one million pounds of foodand provide 900,000 mealsto the people they serve. The Friday just before the tailgate Lovin’ Spoonfuls collected their 11 millionth pound of food rescued!!

It’s an amazing organization with an amazing group of employees! The work they do is an eye opener to a need not only in Massachusetts, but across the United States. Hopefully Lovin’ Spoonfuls will manage to get more and more donations and get the funds to continue to add more trucks to our roads and help our communities be the best they can be!