Like many other homeless shelters, the Pine Street Inn in Boston’s South End relies heavily on donated food for the roughly 2,000 meals it prepares each day. And when you’re dependent on charity, you don’t have much say in what you receive.

For Pine Street, that means lots of grocery store castoffs, including “stuff that doesn’t look attractive anymore, like tomatoes with cracks on top or bruised apples that stores don’t want sitting on their displays,” said Frank van Overbeeke, the shelter’s executive chef. “They’re perfectly good, but they’re just not visually appealing.”

Even when the shelter receives better-quality produce, like farmers market leftovers, shipments can be erratic and of varying size, making it hard to plan a meal for thousands.

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