When you go grocery shopping what type of produce are you looking for? Is it bruised? Does it look disfigured? Probably not. You’re always trying to shop for the “pretty” fruits. Veggies that look like they just came from a Bon Appétit photo shoot. People are always rummaging through the produce section hoping to find picture perfect apples and nice looking carrots. Unfortunately, that means that a lot of the time, the ugly ducklings of the bunch get left behind and often go to waste. That’s where Hungry Harvest comes in to save the day.
Think of them as the TOMS of the food world. Hungry Harvest supplies produce to subscribers through a delivery service at a fraction of the price compared to your traditional farmer’s market, and in return they donate some to families in need. They buy the unwanted produce from local farms and food distributors and save them from going to waste.
Hungry Harvest’s motto is: “We sell produce with a purpose.” Apart from selling produce at an affordable price, they are also helping our local DC/MD community in more ways than one.
Currently, they are at around 400 paying members in the DC/MD area and have donated nearly 100,000 pounds of produce to the community since June 2014. Not only that, but they have also been able to create 6 part-time jobs for men from the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless (MCCH).
Hungry Harvest is all about community and there’s no stopping them anytime soon. Spoon University-UMD had the chance to interview one of the co-founders of Hungry Harvest, John Zamora, in order to get the inside scoop about the company, and what they plan to do in the near future.
SPOON: How did Hungry Harvest begin? Did you know you wanted to start it up while you were still at UMD?
JOHN: Hungry Harvest started out as the Recovered Food CSA. Our CEO, Evan Lutz, and co-founder, Ben Simon, had the initial vision of recovering “surplus” and “ugly” produce, and collectively started the Recovered Food CSA during the Spring semester of 2014. The Recovered Food CSA worked with the Mid-Atlantic Gleaning Network to take food and sell it outside Stamp for $1 per pound. For every pound sold, they would donate one to a family in need.I was originally a customer of theirs, then I began volunteering with them, and now I’m one of the co-founders.
SPOON: What is Hungry Harvest’s goal?
JOHN: We have many goals. If I had to give an answer it would be to have operations set up in every major city in the country. When we get to that point, we’ll be making a big difference in recovering food from going to waste, fighting hunger and creating jobs for those trying to get back on their feet.
SPOON: In your own words, can you explain sustainability?
JOHN: At Hungry Harvest, sustainability is taking advantage of one problem to help solve another. So, we have this issue of food waste–6 billion pounds of produce goes to waste each year, and then we have this issue of hunger, which affects close to 50 million Americans each year. What Hungry Harvest does is that we recover food that may be going to waste for a number of reasons, and we sell it to paying members in the DC/MD area. For every pound of food we sell, we also donate a pound to a community member in need. We have also been able to partner up with the Montgomery County Men’s Coalition for the Homeless to help out guys that are trying to get back on their feet. Through this joint project we can provide these men with a well-paying job that they can feel good about. Hungry Harvest is sustainable in the sense that we are able to stop food waste, feed hungry people and create jobs all by selling “ugly” produce.
SPOON: What’s a typical day like working at Hungry Harvest?
JOHN: Well during the week we don’t have a typical day, which is nice. Our full-time team meets at our office in Columbia, MD about 3 times a week to work on any number of projects. Our CEO, Evan, loves to show up to the office early and make a checklist of what has to absolutely get done that day. Once that list is all done, we are usually brainstorming, reaching out to potential business partners or throwing around a football. On the weekends there’s a set schedule:
Saturday: Assembly Day
- 9:30 am: Our team shows up to our shared warehouse space with Manna Food Center
- 10:00 am: Our suppliers arrive to the warehouse with the produce for that week’s delivery
- 10:00-11:00 am: The truck is unloaded and the assembly line is set up
- 11:00am-2:00 pm: Bags are assembled
- 2:00 pm-3:00 pm: Bags are refrigerated, everything is cleaned up and the warehouse is locked
Sunday: Delivery Day
- 9:00 am: Operations Coordinators show up and begin separating bags for drivers
- 10:00am-11:00am: Drivers show up, load up and begin their route
- 11:00 am-4:00 pm: Drivers are out on their delivery routes
SPOON: How do you use your weekly produce?
JOHN: I live with another one of our full-time team members, Zach Nelkin, and we like to make “green” smoothies as often as possible—I can send you a recipe if you want. Also, we eat grilled chicken with vegetables just about every night, so there is never any produce going to waste.
SPOON: What do you typically eat for dinner?
JOHN: Grilled chicken with veggies.
SPOON: What’s a recipe that you just seem to go back to using your produce?
JOHN: Stir Fry. If there is anything left over from our bags we’ll cut it up and throw it into a stir-fry. I’m sure most people my age turn to the stir-fry method when in doubt.
SPOON: How can students get involved?
JOHN: We are currently hiring about 7 summer interns, 10 part-time drivers and assembly volunteers. The internships and driving positions are PAID POSITIONS and there are postings on our website and Facebook Page. If you’re interested in applying you can shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The best and easiest way students can get involved is by helping spread the word!
SPOON: What does the future hold for Hungry Harvest?
JOHN: There is a lot coming up in the near future. We are hoping to sign a deal with an investor, get our own warehouse and maybe buy some trucks or a van by the end of May. In a couple of weeks we will be making our first deliveries in Virginia to our partners over at MedStar in Arlington. If things go well we will begin home deliveries in Northern Virginia and plan on expanding to other areas of the state. Also, my cousin is making a pretty cool video for us, so be on the lookout for that!
Check out some other awesome interviews from the Spooniverse:
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- Behold, The Future is Here: An Interview with Chef Homaro Cantu
- The Life of a Lauded Food Photographer: An Interview with Jeff Kauck
- Alton Brown Dishes on Food Philosophy and Why Millennials Suck
- Interview with David Yuengling of Yuengling’s Ice Cream