Ashley Christensen has teamed up with an ambitious entrepreneur to attack two pernicious problems in the food industry — food waste and food insecurity.
At a recent event, the James Beard award-winning chef talked about ending food waste and the efforts of Hungry Harvest. New to the Triangle, the produce-delivery service rescues surplus produce and supports efforts to end hunger.
“We do what we can to address child hunger in the United States,” said Christensen. “This is not an issue that has to do with not having supply, it’s about communication and distribution.”
Hungry Harvest, founded by Baltimore-native Evan Lutz, takes aim at the food distribution system. When oranges are too green, carrots too crooked or peppers too puny, farmers can’t sell the perfectly good produce. Hungry Harvest buys these “seconds” and delivers them to its customers.
The company also buys surplus crops, when large orders are canceled or when farms grow more than they can sell.
Lutz, a Baltimore native, started Hungry Harvest in 2014 while he was studying business at the University of Maryland. He got a boost when he pitched his idea on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” and now the company serves Maryland, Virginia, Philadelphia, southern New Jersey, northern Delaware, south Florida and Washington, D.C.
The Triangle was a natural for the company’s expansion, says Lutz. The region has lots of farmers who are looking to sell their surplus produce. And Hungry Harvest was able to easily partner with like-minded groups such as the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle.
But mostly “there was tons of demand,” said Lutz. “A few hundred people reached out and wanted us to come to Raleigh.”
Among the company’s other partners is the James Beard foundation, which is how Lutz was able to connect with Christensen.
“Often we meet people through the values that we share and our goals in being able to create change together,” she said.
“We like to partner with companies and people who share our values of fighting food waste and fighting hunger — and people who appreciate food, where it comes from and how it got there,” said Lutz.
Unlike delivery services where the focus is on buying local products and supporting local farmers, Hungry Harvest’s mission is narrowly defined.
“Our priority is food waste,” said Bart Creasman, Triangle market manager. “There is so much food waste in the system, that we can create a good procurement system.”
The contents of Hungry Harvest’s boxes are not necessarily from North Carolina, so the company can deliver to clients year-round.
Here’s how it works: Customers sign up for weekly boxes that are delivered to their homes. Boxes range in price from $16 to $50, depending on the contents of the box. For every box purchased, Hungry Harvest donates fresh fruit and vegetables to support the hungry. In the Triangle, donations will go to the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle.
New customers can use the code HEALTHYNC to save $5 on their first order at hungryharvest.net.