Hungry Harvest: This is Their Story

1. Summarize your organization in one sentence.

We believe that no food should go to waste and that no person should go hungry. That’s why we source, hand pack, and securely deliver delicious boxes of recovered produce on a weekly and bi-weekly basis. For every delivery, we subsidize 2 lbs of produce for families living in food deserts through our produce in SNAP sites.

2. How long have you been running your organization?

We founded Hungry Harvest in 2014 on the University of Maryland campus.

3. Why did you decide to start the organization?

I’ve always believed that through social entrepreneurship, we can exact swift systemic change to some of the biggest problems our world faces with regard to food justice.  I started this company with the belief that food is a right, not a privilege, and work daily to increase access to fresh produce to those in need.

4. What has been your biggest achievement so far?

This year we surpassed 3 million pounds of food recovered and 500k pounds more donated.  You can’t put a price, or a TV show appearance, or an award on the look on people’s faces when you hand them a full box of fresh produce and know that on that day, they will not be hungry because of your team’s work.

5. How do you measure success?

Every few months we anonymously survey our team to take a pulse on happiness in the work they are doing and belief that we are authentically serving the company mission.  My team is at a 9.2 overall satisfaction rating, which grew .02 from the last poll; we’ve never been under 9.  Our customer ratings are in the 9’s as well, and our number one growth metric is in friend referrals: people get our product, love it, believe in us, and want to share it with their community.  That’s authentic success. That’s how I know we’re doing the right thing.

6. What have you learned in the process?

To be flexible and listen.  Our direction is always toward ending food deserts and bringing about food justice for all.  It’s the way we listen to customer and team feedback to make better choices every day that keeps us moving forward.

7. What advice would you give to someone trying to get involved in food recovery?

Do it. The systemic issues in the food industry are vast and complicated.  It’s going to take a myriad of solutions to truly fix the problem of food waste, hunger, fair compensation for farmers, and more efficient logistics from farm to fork.  We are one solution, but I look forward to more people joining this cause and bringing new ideas and technologies to fill in the gaps toward a more whole solution.

8. What’s next?

Expansion & wholesale.  We are launching our Miami office shortly, with plans to add 3 more cities by year’s end on the East Coast. Through our wholesale channels, we are able to rescue and serve more broadly across the states to help connect food to consumption.

9. Anything else you want to add?

We are indebted to our subscribers, and to our partners.  None of this would be possible without a community of people who truly believe in food justice, and help us each day to better our product, and our service. Thank you doesn’t begin to cover the appreciation the team and I feel for your support.

10. Fun question: What was the best meal you ate this week?

Oh man, that’s a tough call! We are always sampling new produce and recipes posted by our recipe club, so many good things to choose – this week in particular I’d have to say the Asian Pear, Arugula & Feta pizza one of our ambassadors made up. There are few things better than a fresh made pizza on a beautiful sunny day.

Evan Lutz, CEO and co-founder of Hungry Harvest

Kitchens for Good: This is Their Story

1. Summarize your organization in one sentence.

We are a nonprofit social enterprise whose mission it is to fight poverty, hunger, and food waste.

2. How long have you been running your enterprise?

I started Kitchens For Good in March 2013, and we got our first kitchen in September of 2015.

3. Why did you decide to start the organization?

I had for far too many years been appalled at the amount of food waste in the Hospitality Industry where I had spent most of my working career.  I could not reconcile that enormous food waste(we send to landfill nearly 40% of everything we grow in America) with the high number of hungry people in America.  One in 5 Americans is food insecure.  That fact should be inconceivable in America, let alone our reality.  What really made me leave my comfortable, well-paying job started with conversations with my then 10 year old son.  During our drives to school in the morning we talked about his new school, his thoughts about High School in the near future, and what college and life might look like beyond that.  We talked a lot about the concept of Right Livelihood…that what you do for a living should give back more to your community than it takes away.  I came to a point where I had to live it and not just talk about it.

4. What has been your biggest achievement so far?

The team that we have put together at KFG.  We have a group of absolute rock stars.  They continue every day to challenge me and make me better.

5. How do you measure success?

The number of lives changed by the graduates of our programs.  Let me be perfectly clear that what we do at KFG is to provide an opportunity.  Our students are the ones doing the hard work to succeed.

6. What have you learned in the process?

It has reinforced for me the saying that “If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.”  What we do is only possible because of the team we have.

7. What advice would you give to someone trying to start a sustainable food enterprise?

Find the revenue first.  You cannot have a positive impact on your community unless your model and your organization are sustainable.

8. What’s next?

We are in the process of acquiring another facility so that we can expand our programs and our social enterprise.  Our intention had always been to scale to the point where we could have a substantial impact.

9. Anything else you want to add?

Don’t wait, just go for it.  The world is waiting for you to make a difference.

10. What was the best meal you ate this week?

I’m an opportunistic shopper.  This week my local organic market had some amazing garlic sausages on sale.  I grilled them, roasted some Yukon Gold potatoes, and made an arugula salad with dressing made with extra mustard to compliment the sausages.

Chuck Samuelson, founder/president of Kitchens for Good