By Chris Maza
LONGMEADOW – Local organizations combating food inequity have a new ally.
On Monday, July 22, Lovin’ Spoonfuls, a Boston-based nonprofit announced its expansion into Hampden County to assist numerous communities including Longmeadow in delivering healthy food options to those in need.
In partnership with grocers and food retailers such as Big Y Foods, Lovin’ Spoonfuls collects food that would normally be discarded and gets it into the hands of food insecure populations that same day through local organizations. An estimated 10,000 pounds of food will be collected each week – including fresh produce, dairy, proteins, and prepared foods – and distributed to 17 Hampden County nonprofits, including the Longmeadow Food Pantry.
“The collaborative efforts of the Longmeadow Food Pantry, the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Big Y, Rachel’s Table and now Lovin’ Spoonfuls demonstrates supporting agencies with shared goals that continue to strengthen their outreach and impact within the communities that we proudly serve,” Longmeadow Council on Aging Executive Director James Leyden said.
Representatives from Rachel’s Table and the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts were on hand to celebrate the commencement of the partnership, which will bridge the gaps in the services already offered.
“There’s more food out there than we are able to procure and distribute through our network. The wonderful work of Lovin’ Spoonfuls, through their nimble operating model, they can reach that last mile of food that we can’t,” Food Bank of Western Massachusetts Executive Director Andrew Morehouse said.
Rachel’s Table has been performing similar food rescue and distribution operations in the area for nearly three decades and is expanding into Hampshire and Franklin Counties. However the level of need in the Pioneer Valley is increasing and the resources offered by Lovin’ Spoonfuls, such as a refrigerated box truck for transporting perishables, are most welcome, according to Rachel’s Table Director Jodi Falk.
Springfield native Tyler Crawford will serve as the area’s food rescue coordinator, responsible for the collection and distribution of food with the truck, which was on location at the Longmeadow announcement. Trucks like Crawford’s have been responsible for the rescue of 75,000 pounds of food weekly, which has helped 160 nonprofits and fed approximately 30,000 clients statewide, according to Lovin’ Spoonfuls COO Lauren Palumbo.
The benefit is of the program is twofold – providing healthy food to those who may not be in a position to procure it on their own while also reducing waste.
“One of the things that I was always troubled about was the waste that happens in the supermarket and is there a way to capture that waste and have it go to people who really could use it and need it?” Charlie D’Amour, president and CEO of Big Y, said. “We’ve had a wonderful partnership with the Western Mass. Food Bank [and] we continue to partner with the food banks, but with Lovin’ Spoonfuls, we just have a wonderful opportunity to connect that much more, and in a timely way.”
Hampden County has the highest rate of childhood food insecurity of any region in the state. State Rep. Brian Ashe recalled growing up in such conditions and stressed the importance of these services.
“I live in Longmeadow now and I’m blessed to be here and I’m blessed to be a state rep., but when I was a kid, we were on welfare,” Ashe said. “We didn’t have food. We had to get food stamps. A lot of times we went without food, so stuff like this is really near and dear to my heart and it is so important to me personally and professionally.”
Ashe credited those gathered with the positive work they’ve performed in Longmeadow and surrounding communities to address food insecurity.
“There’s a stigma attached to it,” he said. “Let’s face it, if you don’t have money for clothes or for food, there’s a stigma. But when people can go and feel that people accept them for who they are, meet them where they’re at and they can give them food, give them a meal and make them feel good about themselves and give them a chance for the next day, that’s all you can ask for.”
D’Amour spoke of the company’s emphasis on being good community partners with local and state organizations.
“As a family business, it’s something that’s very important to us,” he said.