Bart Creasman is the Triangle Market Manager for Hungry Harvest, a Maryland-based produce delivery service on a mission to end food waste and hunger. Since 2014, Hungry Harvest has rescued over 15 million pounds of produced and donated and subsidized over a million pounds. They launched their service in the Triangle in January of 2018.
Bart, thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule to explain exactly what it is that Hungry Harvest does, about its mission and what we can do to help.
To begin with can you please describe the driving forces that you feel were responsible for the formation of Hungry Harvest?
Yes and this is a rally good place to start! Two huge forces, food waste and food access, are the core driver for our mission. We live in a country that throws away 40% of all food that’s grown. This amounts to 20 billion pounds of produce every single year, not to mention all the resources it takes to grow that produce. These may seem like just numbers in an article, but the reality of this amount of food is staggering when you see even a fraction of it first-hand.
At the same time, 20% of all people in this country lack consistent access to a nutritious diet. Our founder, Evan Lutz, found it to be an injustice that these two problems can co-exist in the same place. Ever since 2014, we’ve been working to create access to fresh, healthy produce for everyone in every area we serve.
Bart, these are truly astounding and shocking figures. Can you tell us about the actual formation of Hungry Harvest, its early days and struggles, its mission, and current issues?
I joined in late 2017 to launch and manage the North Carolina market for Hungry Harvest. From what I hear, the early days were quite a struggle, like they are for any startup. Evan Lutz founded the company several years earlier in his dorm at the University of Maryland as part of a senior project and his team began delivering to its first 30 customers, 15 of which were free trials, in June 2014.
Many people don’t know that Hungry Harvest actually was in danger of failure on multiple occasions early on. But as many of you may know, the company caught a break when it appeared on the show “Shark Tank” in 2015 and struck a deal with Robert Herjavec. Five years later, the company has a team of 50 people across 9 states and has rescued over 15 million pounds of produce while donating and subsidizing a further 1 million pounds.
Currently we deal with typical growing pains. It’s not always easy to scale an operation from a startup to a multi-state company while remaining true to our core values.
Well we are all so glad that you have finally succeeded, Next, can you tell us where you get your produce, and where it goes?
We rescue produce anywhere in the food supply chain, before retail, where it can slip through the cracks. With farmers, it could be a bumper crop where he or she doesn’t have an outlet for the excess grown beyond what was contracted with a distributor. For a distributor or wholesaler, maybe a load was rejected by a retailer because of a last minute order change or the items were packed in the wrong size container or didn’t meet their spec. Another reason is that grocery stores often have a strict aesthetic standard for their produce. You ever notice that everything in a store looks perfect? Well it doesn’t all grow like that. The apples that are too small or not round, the carrots and cucumbers that aren’t straight and don’t stack nicely, the bell peppers that are flat or very asymmetrical - those never even make it in the door of most retailers. In the end we’ll find a truck that’s headed for one of our hubs and make sure that product gets a ride.
Since the company’s inception, we’ve built a large network of farmers, wholesalers, and distributors that work with us to make sure they can get a return for their whole harvest. Because we can pay them for items that would otherwise go to waste, and as we talked about before, there’s no shortage of produce going to waste, these suppliers have an incentive to work with us.
But our efforts to rescue produce mean nothing unless we can package and distribute it in a way that people will love to use. We have to effectively meet a customer’s need. For that, we create a variety box each week that is delivered directly to our subscribers’ homes for less than what they pay at retail, saving them time, money, and energy on meal planning.
How does the consumer sign up for delivery, how does this work, how do they pay, and what about delivery?
If you really want to help and support us please go to hungryharvest.net, and put in your zip code to see if we deliver to your address, then pick the package that works best for your household. With a variety of sizes and options, including organic, and boxes starting at just $15 for 10 lbs. of produce, it’s easy to find the right fit.
Customers pay on our website, but are only charged after we confirm delivery. In the Triangle we currently deliver on Saturdays. You’ll receive an email with your box contents on Tuesday, and you have until Thursday at noon to customize your harvest, add on products from our marketplace (including eggs, cheese, bread, chocolate, and more), or skip your delivery that weekend. Boxes are delivered right to your door, and you’ll receive text notification when it’s on the way and after it’s been dropped off.
Bart, you mentioned customization.
How does this work?
To customize your order, log-in to your profile at hungryharvest.net , click on your order, and choose any produce items to add or take away from your delivery. You can also check out our marketplace to see what non-produce items you’d like delivered. We have a large market of items including eggs, bread, cheese, rice, beans, chocolate… all of which fit our mission.
Well that seems to make the ordering and delivery process really easy to understand. What about this a SNAP market some of us have heard about?
Well we created a program in 2016 called Produce in a SNAP. We set up pop-up markets using our rescued produce in areas that lack access to healthy food. We sell this produce at cost (usually $7-8 for a bag of 8-9 lbs. of produce) and accept SNAP benefits. These markets are run by community members and supported by us. So far in Baltimore and Philadelphia we support 30 of these markets that run every week.
The goal of this program is to create a sustainable, consistent resource for healthy food, so that we can create a more equitable food system in the communities we serve. Our goal is to expand this program to cover every single market where we deliver.
Again, very interesting and please tell us your partnership program and, how a company become your partner?
We try to use our service to the best benefit of our partners. With companies, we can be a great resource for any wellness or sustainability initiatives. For nonprofits, we have a program that can raise money for your cause while helping the health and wellness of your local community. For other entities, we can help educate the general public as a part of their mission. It’s important for us all to find ways to work together towards a common goal. To learn more about partnering with us, please contact me!
Do you have plans for expansion?
Yes we do. We are excited to expand to Charlotte in August! Our goal is to be in 15 total cities in the next few years. And currently we have delivery programs in DC/Baltimore/Northern Virginia, Philadelphia, Detroit, Miami, the Triangle, and starting in August, Charlotte.
So in closing Bart, how can we help your cause and help you achieve your objectives?
Please go to our website and sign up! You’re buying (or should be buying) produce anyway, and you can actively participate in fighting food waste every single day with our service. Use code APATT at checkout, and a portion of all proceeds go directly to A Place at the Table to support their meal token program!
Otherwise, you should try to compost -CompostNow is an excellent home service for that and be mindful of the items you buy and store in your fridge. Try to use everything! Planning ahead is the key so you only buy what you know you’ll use.
Please visit the Hungry Harvest website at https://www.hungryharvest.net/
To support the mission of Hungry Harvest begin the sign up process at https://shop.hungryharvest.net/check-address
For questions please contact Bart Creasman, Triangle Market Manager for Hungry Harvest.
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org PHONE: 919.538.0951.