Person of Interest: Ashley Stanley
Making grocery runs with the founder of Boston’s largest food-rescue organization.
On a warm morning this fall, Ashley Stanley hoists large plastic bags brimming with broccoli and kale from a Weston farm into a van emblazoned with a heart-shaped wooden spoon and the name Lovin’ Spoonfuls.
What started out two years ago as a few boxes in the trunk of her Land Rover has become a two-truck, three-employee operation. Along the way, this 32-year-old in Ray-Ban aviators and a baggy blue hoodie has made herself one of the major players in Boston food rescue, with contracts to save more than half a million pounds of food from farms and supermarkets each year.
It all began in late 2009, when Stanley sat down to lunch with her mother at Captain Marden’s Seafoods in Wellesley. The portions were huge. “There’s so much food on the table,” Stanley said to her mother. “We could probably feed four or five people with what’s here.”
The next morning, she typed a query into Google: What happens to wasted food?
Suddenly, Stanley had an idea. She was already looking for a new career, “something a little more relevant,” and maybe rescuing food could be it. But there wasn’t even an organization, let alone a job. So she set out to see what wasted food actually looks like. She talked her way into the back of the Trader Joe’s in Coolidge Corner and was shocked by what she found: In busy grocery stores, a nick, scratch, or cosmetic blemish is all it takes for produce to be pulled from the floor. There were pallets full of the stuff.
To Stanley, the solution was as obvious as the problem. “We have the power to provide access to fresh, healthy food,” she says, “so why not?”
And that’s how Ashley Stanley became a truck driver. Even as she works to add volume and reach, what she’s really hoping for is the day her organization becomes obsolete.
“It would be a great day at work to come in and have someone say, ‘Hey, we don’t need the food. We’re all set. We’ve actually dealt with the hunger issue, so you need to find another job.’”