Rachel Garside doesn’t wear a hero’s cape, but she is involved in daily rescue – of perfectly good food that is headed for the dumpster. Food waste occurs at all stages of production, from the farm to the market, but the one of the largest losses occurs at the supermarket, where overstocking, improper product rotation, slightly damaged produce, or short shelf life leaves a wasteland of excess. This is where Garside comes in, part of a “just-in-time” Boston-based food rescue network called Lovin’ Spoonfuls. Garside is a truck driver who picks up boxes and bushels of fresh produce, dairy products and other perishable items, hauling them directly to community programs to help feed the hungry. “It’s a sad paradox that while there are more choices than ever on the supermarket shelves – all different sizes, packaging, brands, and flavors – while at the same time, a growing number of people are struggling to put healthy food on the table,” said Garside, part of a Lovin’ Spoonfuls team that has rescued and distributed more than 2,000,000 pounds of fresh food in the Boston area. She spoke to Globe correspondent Cindy Atoji Keene about rescuing food from Boston grocery stores, farmers markets, and bakeries and dropping it off at recipient sites.
“I’ve always known there was excess food – the statistics say that 40 percent of all food produced in the United States goes to waste. I remember hearing a quote about how much meat gets thrown away at the grocery store; it was such a ridiculous amount. Still, when I started working at Lovin’ Spoonfuls and saw with my own eyes the stacks and stacks of food that would just be dumped, I got a bad feeling in my stomach. I remember thinking, ‘This is really bad. What’s wrong with this picture?’ But thank goodness we are speaking to the issue. On a typical day, I will deliver to soup kitchens, food pantries, homeless shelters, and other agencies to help feed hundreds of thousands each week. On a typical day, I might fill my small 6.5′ box truck with three cases of leafy greens, two cases of cabbage, one case of tomatoes and grapes, three cases of frozen meats, three cases of cut vegetables, one case of apples, nine bags of bread, four bags of pastries, two boxes of grocery items and more – all of this totals well over 800 pounds. That’s just one of our trucks on one day. We have five trucks, averaging between 4-7,000 pounds of food rescued each week.Today I am going to the neighborhood where I live, delivering to a crisis center for women and children. Some of the women will take produce and cook it in their kitchens, while the cafeteria will use dairy, meat and vegetables to make meals. I grew up in the urban community of Dorchester and I’ve seen food insecurity my whole life; families struggling to make ends meet. This job has changed the way I personally consume food. I try to buy only what I will use and not have any excess. I don’t want to contribute to the surplus food problem. And, another bonus: it’s actually amazing how much stronger I feel since starting this job. My first month was physically challenging, but then whipping up a 50-pound box of bananas was second nature, and empowering especially being a woman. I would say I lift between 1,000-1,500 pounds over the course of one day. And it is all going to organizations that serve people in need.”