Spoiler Alert Blog | Food Waste


User Spotlight: The Elizabeth Peabody House

Felecia Foley
Felecia Foley

user spotlight the elizabeth peabody house banner with vegetables in background

The Elizabeth Peabody House is a Somerville MA-based nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting families in their community in reaching their full potential through early childhood education, youth enrichment and development, and family services. The Elizabeth Peabody House was founded in 1896 and based upon the work of activist, intellectual, and writer Elizabeth Palmer Peabody (1804-1894). Elizabeth Peabody founded the first english-speaking kindergarten in the United States and was a leading education reformer. The organization stays true to Peabody's beliefs, with children at the core of its mission. The organization has since furthered their impact through additional programs and services added throughout the years. More recently in 2009, an emergency food pantry was established to help families in need of healthy food options. 

We had a chance to hear from Ariela Knight, the Food Pantry Manager at The Elizabeth Peabody House. Ariela tells us that they serve about 70 households every week, and each individual is encouraged to come to the pantry once a month to get food. To get a sense of their impact in 2016, their food pantry distributed 33,878 bags of groceries to people in the community. Most of their clients are local to the area, with about 68% that live within 2 miles of the pantry, but their doors are open to anyone who is able to get there.

The Food Pantry at The elizabeth peabody house

The Elizabeth Peabody House has been able to boost their impact by sourcing and distributing more healthy and wholesome food options to their clients. Fresh produce is the healthiest option, and often the most expensive to buy at the grocery store. As a result, Ariela has been working extra hard to source more healthy options, and tells us she has been looking for creative ways to increase the volume of produce the pantry receives each week, especially in the winter months. To mark this progress, she says:

“Last year we gave away 213,000 pounds of perishable foods like fruit, vegetables, eggs, meat, and dairy”.

This focus on increasing healthy options has helped The Elizabeth Peabody House increase the overall volume of food that they are able to provide to visitors of the pantry.

food pantry at the elizabeth peabody houseSource: Ariela Knight

Fresh produce: opportunities and challenges

By adding more perishable items to their inventory, The Elizabeth Peabody House now faces some of the obstacles that come with these types of foods. Ariela explained how distribution, storage, and timing become more difficult when it comes to perishable items with short-shelf life. Although they are trying to continuously increase the volume of perishable items, they need to be careful of when they receive the food so as not to waste any of it.

Families and individuals come to the pantry when they are in need, and as a result it is hard to predict how much food will be distributed on any given day. This, in addition to limited storage, mean that Ariela and her team need to be very strategic about when and how much perishable food they have on hand. Their ultimate goal is to have enough healthy food for everyone, but also to ensure that none of it is leftover at the end of the day.

fruits in boxes at the elizabeth peabody houseSource: The Elizabeth Peabody House website

Creative Sourcing on Spoiler alert 

The Elizabeth Peabody House has been using Spoiler Alert to monitor available food items since they joined at the beginning of 2016. As mentioned above, the timing and the type of product is an important consideration for their food pantry. As a result, alerts from Spoiler Alert have allowed them to stay on top of what is available in real-time. Ariela came across the perfect opportunity to source broccoli through a recent post on Spoiler Alert,

“I noticed the posting online Tuesday afternoon, and was able to pick it up the next morning. It was only 10 minutes away from the pantry! The broccoli was in great condition”.

broccoli and greens in bins at the elizabeth peabody houseSource: The Elizabeth Peabody House website

The increasing number of vegetables and healthy options has made pantry visitors happy as well. Ariela tells us that “people at the pantry were thrilled! Broccoli is a super popular vegetable, and one that we rarely get”. 

We are looking forward to finding more serendipitous moments like the one experienced by The Elizabeth Peabody House. As more members are added to the Spoiler Alert community, more moments like this one are bound to occur. If you would like to refer an organization to join the Spoiler Alert community, you can do so here.