Spoiler Alert Is Taking a Bite Out of Food Waste

The MIT startup connects nonprofits with food that would otherwise go uneaten.

Spoiler Alert photo provided by Ricky Ashenfelter

Spoiler Alert photo provided

In the United States, 40 percent of the food we produce goes to the dump. That egregious level of waste inspired two MIT Sloan School of Management grads, Ricky Ashenfelter and Emily Malina, to create Spoiler Alert, a matchmaking platform that connects local nonprofits with excess food.

“It kills me to see food go to waste,” says Ashenfelter, a life-long environmentalist. “[Emily and I] put our heads together to figure out how our passions for sustainability and technology could be used to tackle America’s food waste problem.”

They came up with a business-to-business donation platform and marketplace that gives a second life to food that would otherwise go uneaten. Using Spoiler Alert, a food manufacturer or restaurant can post about the food it would’ve tossed, then notify hunger-fighting organizations like the Greater Boston Food Bank, Lovin’ Spoonfuls, Daily Table, and Food For Free. The two parties can then set up a transaction instantaneously.

“We’ve seen how society has grown comfortable with sharing economy platforms like Airbnb and Zipcar,” Ashenfelter says. “We want to bring the efficiencies and optimizations that technology offers to the food industry. [And] one of the easiest ways to address climate change and hunger is to do more with the food we’re already producing.”

Launched in 2015, Spoiler Alert has already gained traction as the winner of MassChallenge and a part of Techstars, a three-month accelerator program for high-impact startups. Its software now manages hundreds of connections.

“The beauty of our model is that we as a company never take possession of any of the food; we don’t own trucks, we don’t hold inventory,” Ashenfelter notes. “Instead, our platform aggregates supply-and-demand information, bringing together those with surplus food and those with the vehicles to move it.”

Spoiler Alert is currently based in Boston, but its founders are looking to expand beyond Massachusetts and, eventually, to reduce waste across the country. “We intend to unlock the platform in other major metropolitan areas, when the time is right,” Ashenfelter says. “Right now, we’re focused on proving out the appropriate balance of supply-and-demand and product functionality here in New England. Walk before you run.”