When Sasha Purpura tells people what she does for a living, it really resonates.

Since 2012, Purpura has served as the executive director at Food For Free, a nonprofit organization in Cambridge, MA, that rescues fresh food that might otherwise go to waste and distributes it to those in need in the Greater Boston area.

What Is a Food Rescue Program?

Food rescue is the practice of saving edible food from going to waste and distributing it to local emergency food rescue programs.

Through a combination of food rescue, farming and transportation services, Food For Free gives year-round access to fresh produce to over 100 food programs in Arlington, Boston, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Lynn, Malden, Medford, Peabody, Somerville and Watertown.

“I fell in love with it when I got here,” Purpura said. “We’re really integrated into the community. It’s nothing like the corporate world.”

In 2009, Purpura left the corporate world after 15 years to pursue an MBA in Sustainability. She wanted to spend time at Plato’s Harvest, a 4-acre organic farm she helped her husband start in 2006. It was there her passion for fresh, healthy food grew into what it is now.

And today, Purpura gets the opportunity to help bring that same food to those who need it most.

Apples

Photo courtesy of Food For Free.

In 2016 alone, Food For Free distributed 1.95 million pounds of food that helped feed 30,000 people. In doing so, it helped divert 1.85 million pounds of food from the compost heap and landfill.

‘Dealing With Hunger Is Best When Everyone Is Involved’

“We are an agency that does food rescue, but we wanted to find gaps in access,” Purpura said.

In 2001, Food For Free launched its Home Delivery Program at the request of the Cambridge Department of Human Services Program. The HDP brings 35 to 40 pounds of food twice a month to low-income residents who are unable to access food pantries due to illness or disability.

Nine years later, Food For Free began its Transportation Partnership. This partnership picks up food from the Greater Boston Food Bank for Cambridge food programs that don’t have their own means of transportation. More than 1.2 million pounds of food was transferred in 2016.

Single Serving Meals

Photo courtesy of Food For Free.

In the summer of 2014, Food For Free teamed up with neighboring Harvard University to rescue leftover prepared foods from its dining halls. The program eventually became known as Family Meals, which divides food into single-serving, re-heatable family meals.

In addition to universities, Food For Free collects fresh and prepared foods from:

  • Bakeries and other retailers
  • CSA distribution sites
  • Farms
  • Farmers markets
  • Grocery stores
  • Wholesale distributors

More Than Just a Food Rescue Program

While delivering fresh and healthy foods to food programs and people who cannot access nutritious food remains the primary focus, Food For Free is supporting the local food system in a variety of other ways.

In addition to having a hand in founding the Zinberg Clinic food pantry, Food For Free’s Cambridge Weekend Backpack Program provides students in the Cambridge public school system the nutrition needed to support them while school is not in session. Furthermore, Food For Free takes part in coalitions such as the Boston Collaborative for Food and Fitness, which strives to create a long-term change in the way the people of Boston eat and exercise.

“People have a strong value of food, it hits home with them,” Purpura said.

Budget Dumpster is your community-focused source for a dumpster rental in Boston. This article is part of a series spotlighting organizations that are making a difference in the communities we serve. If you know of another great organization, let us know in the comments!