As Lovin’ Spoonfuls rescued food truck driver Vinny Vassallo backed carefully through a tight opening to the back of the Everett Grace Food Pantry, the Everett native carried a milestone in the back of that truck.
With Grace Food Pantry Director Irene Cardillo and Lovin’ Spoonfuls COO Lauren Palumbo waiting in the back of the Church Food Pantry location on Church Street March 18, a crew of Pantry volunteers and Lovin’ Spoonfuls officials were ready to celebrate their 20 millionth pound of food delivered since 2010 – an effort to redistribute rescued food from vendors across the region that expanded to Everett last July to help ease food insecurity during the pandemic.
“Today feels great,” said Vassallo, who lived in Everett most of his life up until last year. “We started having special deliveries to Everett Grace Food Pantry in July. We’re delivering here today to the area where I grew up. Being able to bring this food to my community and my neighborhood and people I’ve known all my life. It’s a good feeling. We couldn’t do it without Irene and the whole team at Everett Grace Food Pantry.”
The new route – which Vassallo used to drive regularly before getting a promotion recently – was added in July through a grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). It works with vendors in the area and then re-distributes rescued food to organizations like Grace in Everett, Chelsea, Lynn, Revere and East Boston. Altogether, the organization has eight trucks running similar food rescue routes, and the organization has been doing that work since 2010 – which is why they celebrated their 20 millionth pound of rescued food delivered since that beginning.
Cardillo said they have to do their own food runs most every day at Grace, but the weekly deliveries on Thursday by Lovin’ Spoonfuls gives them a day to relax just a bit.
“I can’t say enough about Lovin’ Spoonfuls,” she said. “Every week they bring it to us and even sometimes when they have extra they’ll give us a call. They always think about us. It’s a real partnership. We have to pick up seven days a week for the Pantry, but this is one day we can relax a bit more and they bring it to us. I’m grateful for everything they do.”
Palumbo said they’ve been around for some time, and it was fitting to make their milestone delivery to Everett – where they have expanded and partnered so successfully with Grace Food Pantry.
“We are so excited to be delivering this 20 millionth pound milestone,” she said. “We’ve been around 11 years, but we’ve grown quickly in the last couple of years…We never could have said we were prepared for a pandemic a year and a half ago, but we had prepared for other catastrophes. Our staff stepped up and responded. The food was still available, we just had to figure out how to get it to the people in need.”
The distribution of the 20 millionth pound happen on the new permanent Greater Boston route, which was launched in July 2020 to serve partners in Chelsea, Revere, Everett, East Boston and Lynn that have been greatly impacted by the COVID pandemic.
Last year, Spoonfuls recovered and redistributed over 4 million pounds of food – enough for 3.3 million meals – for people across Massachusetts. It was the most in the organization’s 11-year history.
“Hunger isn’t a problem of supply. Hunger is a problem of distribution and access,” said Ashley Stanley, founder and Executive Director of Lovin’
Spoonfuls. “Even at the onset of the pandemic when supply chain issues and panic-buying cleared grocery store shelves, we were still rescuing perishable food and doing as we’ve always done: getting good food from where it is to those who need it most.”
Established in 2010 by Stanley, Lovin’ Spoonfuls is a nonprofit food rescue organization based in Boston dedicated to facilitating the rescue and distribution of healthy, fresh food that would otherwise be discarded.
Each week day, Spoonfuls’ 13 Food Rescue Coordinators work with over 200 vendor partners across eight truck routes to pick up wholesome, perishable food from grocery stores, produce wholesalers, farms and farmers markets, and distribute it to more than 160 community nonprofits that address food insecurity in Greater Boston, MetroWest and Western Massachusetts. Communities served include: Boston, Cambridge, Brighton, Somerville, Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Melrose, Watertown, Woburn, Wakefield, Burlington, Newton, Quincy, Needham, Natick, Framingham, Ashland, Bellingham, Milford, Waltham, Sudbury, Southborough and Hampden County (Springfield, Chicopee and Holyoke). Each week, Lovin’ Spoonfuls rescues between 75,000-80,000 pounds of food to serve about 32,000 people within these communities.