On Donations and Hunger

Donations alone won’t solve hunger.
Go to nofooddeserts.com if you like this hat. We certainly do!

Donations are not a sustainable solution to fighting hunger. They are usually a one-time fix for someone’s meals.

We need sustainable business solutions that systemically address hunger rather than one-time donations.

At Hungry Harvest, we don’t view hunger from a charity perspective. We look at hunger from a business perspective. With this mindset, we can make a long-term, sustainable impact in people’s lives.

We started a program called Produce in a SNAP last August, where we sell discounted bags of healthy fruits and vegetables to residents in food deserts. We partner with schools and community centers to set up the stands. There, we accept SNAP and EBT to try and adhere to consumer’s budgets in these underserved regions.

First thing’s first, we’re not seeking to profit from the poor, as some critics might be quick to judge. Rather, we take any profits we make and reinvest them into these communities. We can hire more student managers to run the PIAS sites. We can purchase more EBT machines so residents of food deserts can utilize their budget wisely.

Imagine a world where we donated one time only in each location and did it for marketing & PR.

We’d donate a few thousand pounds, feed a few hundred people for one day, and then leave. Press would take pictures and write articles. We may even gain some additional customers from the attention.

The people we feed would have produce for a few days, maybe a week. But their eating habits wouldn’t change — since there is no consistent option.

This does not solve hunger. This does not solve food deserts.

In fact, these efforts even have a detrimental effect on the food deserts. This model doesn’t let people count on stable food sources, and doesn’t empower people to take control of their health. This is why one off donations & food drives are not a healthy mindset when trying to solve a food desert to better a community.

It would sound great for marketing — for every box we sell, we donate one — but it wouldn’t actually solve hunger.

In that sense, we would not be fulfilling our mission. Our mission is to fight food waste and fight hunger.

Now, imagine a scenario where produce is sold at low prices, where it’s convenient for the community, and students from the community are running the sites.

This accomplishes a few things that the first scenario does not.

First, it creates jobs in the community. Students at schools where PIAS sites run on a weekly basis earn a stipend (and sometimes a portion of sales, incentivizing them to sell more bags).

Second, it provides the community consistent access to produce. People who live within 1/2 a mile of the school can easily walk to the location once a week to purchase fresh produce.

Third, it provides affordable produce to the community. We sell our produce at a severe discount to grocery stores at our stands.

Finally, it provides us a sustainable method to truly fight hunger and fulfill our mission. Fighting hunger is no longer a cost to us — it’s a revenue stream. A revenue stream that helps us set up more PIAS stands in more food deserts. A revenue stream that allows us to recover more produce from farms to get it into the hands of those who demand it.

As a society, we need to start looking at social problems as business problems to create a healthier, more sustainable planet.