September 2019

Thursday, September 19, 2019 - 7:00pm

" Food Waste"

Our speakers gave us different perspectives of the efforts to combat the evil twins of food insecurity and food waste.

  • Sasha Purpura, Executive Director of Food For Free
  • Todd Kaplan, representing Boston Area Gleaners

Food For Free

In 1981, Food For Free began as a grassroots effort to gather fresh food that would be discarded to supply local meal programs that didn’t have enough. Food For Free was officially founded in 1983 and now feeds 30,000 people in one way or another every year.

Food For Free rescues 2 million pounds of food annually. Half of it is produce, most of which comes from local grocery stores and farmers’ markets; all of it distributed via food pantries. 

The other half is prepared food from a variety of sources (e.g., catered events that have been snowed out, the Harvard University dining halls). This food, which is frozen, is carved into serving-size chunks and assembled into “TV dinners” for distribution to folks who are unable to cook or do not have an adequate place to do so.

Food For Free has learned that reducing the distance between hungry families and sources of food makes any distribution program more successful. Food For Free runs or supplies weekend backpack programs that provide food and snacks to children and families; monthly school markets, where parents can purchase groceries; summer markets at schools and Danehy Park. They also have a delivery service that brings 35-40 pounds of food twice a month to folks who cannot leave their homes without assistance.

Food For Free also has a small farm (Field of Greens) in Lincoln. This quarter-acre parcel and the tools and supplies needed are provided by a local farmer; the work is done by volunteers. The annual harvest supplies nearly 6,000 pounds of vegetables to the culinary training program at the Pine Street Inn.

Food For Free also has some storage near City Hall and a 500 sq. ft. kitchen in the Biogen building.

Half of the annual budget of $1.3 million is raised through donations from businesses and individuals, as well as a few very imaginative and fun fundraisers. The other half comes from grants. A very small slice of this is earned income.

To learn more about Food For Free, go to its website:

Boston Area Gleaners

For the last 10 years, Boston Area Gleaners has been mobilizing volunteers to harvest surplus crops from farmers’ fields. This surplus, which would otherwise be plowed under, is distributed through the area’s network of food pantries and kitchens.

Most of the farms in eastern Massachusetts roughly within a 40-mile radius from Waltham. Volunteers who register are notified of harvest days throughout the growing season (June through December) The shifts are a 2-3-hours, exclusive of any travel time. Staff is available with necessary tools and instructions for how to harvest each crop. Harvesting is done almost daily throughout the season; summer shifts tend to be in the mornings, and fall shifts tend to be in the afternoons.

Boston Area Gleaners has a goal of rescuing 1 million pounds of fresh produce every season. Last season, volunteers harvested 810,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables.

In addition to the harvest itself, the benefits of participating include opportunities to be out in nature, to get some exercise, and to meet some new people. The website provides a lot of information about what to expect, and if you’re interested, you can sign up there. Go to