Life is too short to not make an impact.
I have held this belief for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I became obsessed with the idea of making the world a better place. I remember hearing about the stories of Ben & Jerry’s, Greyston Bakery, and other models of social entrepreneurship and falling in love with the concept: business is the most powerful tool on the planet to create positive social change.
In my early teens, I envisioned myself travelling down the path of social entrepreneurship and I began working towards that goal every day. What I didn’t imagine is where that journey would take me and what aspect of it I would love the most.
The past four years have been the best of my life. I have the best job on the planet — doing work I love, with people I love, while making a difference in our food system. To date, we’ve reduced over 8 million pounds of produce from going to waste and donated & subsidized over 750,000 pounds. Our team is three times the size is was last year, and we expect to double our current size by this time next year. So, as I use our fourth anniversary as an opportunity to look back and reflect on what we’ve accomplished and what we still want to do, one thing remains constant — the value that our customers bring to everything we do.
In the summer of 2014 when Hungry Harvest was getting started, I took the money in my savings account and invested nearly all of it into the business. I hired interns and through the sweltering summer heat, we knocked on doors in Takoma Park, a suburb of Washington DC.
As we got feedback from various residents, we refined our pitch. The common sentiment was that nobody seemed to know what ‘ugly’ produce was. Part of the problem was that we didn’t really know how to answer them. Our supply chain had not been figured out yet. We were sourcing predominantly from one farmer, and buying their ‘ugly’ produce. But what made produce ugly? Did ‘ugly’ represent the full food waste story?
Over the years, we’ve come to learn that produce doesn’t only go to waste because it’s ‘ugly’. In fact, that’s a very small reason why fruits and vegetables can’t find a home. The Hungry Harvest team has figured out ways to rescue produce along the entire supply chain.
We’ve found that produce gets rejected for all kinds of ridiculous reasons:
We once had blueberries that a grocer ordered in 4oz cases but arrived in 6oz cases, and were therefore destined for the landfill until we rescued them.
We’ve found that during certain times of the year, yellow squash grows in two different regions of the country at the same time, creating an oversupply of produce that causes millions of pounds to go to waste.
We’ve found a mushroom supplier that previously had no buyer for their mushroom chips until we rescued them. The chips are the delicious ends and stumps that get chopped off when refining the mushrooms for their perfect grocery store appearance.
We’ve found a kale grower that plowed under their first harvest of the year because the first yield’s stems were too soft.
There are countless reasons why produce goes to waste, which makes us even more grateful for our customers — who are not only helping to rescue produce, but also drive meaningful change in the food system and Hungry Harvest business with every single delivery. Thanks to your valuable feedback, we’ve been able to implement major changes that have enhanced our overall product quality and delivery systems.
For example, you let us know that getting produce in bags wasn’t providing you with the best experience so we transitioned to boxes a couple years ago.
You told us you wanted the ability to choose what was in your Harvest every week. So in December 2015 we introduced a free product feature called the Never List, allowing our customers to only receive products they like. It was a step in the right direction, and in July of 2017 we went a step further by giving customers the option to fully customize their individual boxes.
Thanks to our customers, people from other cities — Philadelphia, Miami, Raleigh, Detroit, Charlotte, and others — started writing in and requesting we serve those markets. We continue to refer to our waitlists as an indication of where to expand the business.
Thanks to your communication, we dedicate time each week to focus on the comments our customers provide in three, hour-long, meetings called “Customer Telephone”, where the entire team reviews our customer’s responses for that week. This feedback is essential to our learning and serving you the best we can.
And finally an especially big thank you to the loyal customers that have been with us since the very beginning — your dedication continues to inspire us each day.
The Hungry Harvest team lovingly calls the tens of thousands of you our Harvest Heroes for a reason. Your passion makes us stronger and our impact greater. So I feel it is my obligation to you to continue to grow our business, expand across the country, and find more Harvest Heroes to help further our mission. You are why I wake up in the morning.
So from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you for helping us reduce food waste and the precious resources used to grow it. Thank you for helping us close food gaps in the fight against hunger. Thank you for helping to spread the word about our company and our mission.
Thank you for being part of our Hungry Harvest Family.
CEO & Founder