Would you eat this apple? Assuming it’s a normal apple (no weird chemicals or anything) but looks just like this. Would you eat it?
Many grocery stores and produce wholesalers think you won’t. And that’s why you’ll never see this misshapen apple on the shelf at this store.
How about this one? An orange has to be round, right? Because an oval orange would probably taste all wrong.
In fact, most people that eat rejected (or the nicer term – recovered) produce would never know it unless you told them. But instead, it’s all going to waste.
Here’s a shocking statistic. 6 billion pounds of produce are wasted in this country every year simply because of cosmetic imperfections. This, while 50 million Americans go hungry.
Now I’m pretty good at math but something doesn’t add up and that’s exactly what Evan Lutz thought when he founded Hungry Harvest to make a dent in this problem.
Evan (great name, by the way) is a 20-something year old graduate of the University of Maryland who fits the millennial bill to a tee. Not only is he passionate and driven but he wants to make money while making a difference. Perfect for a student who studied business and entrepreneurship.
I learned about him while scanning some local headlines a few weeks ago and saw this.
Of course, I clicked. I mean, Columbia is right down the road! Why didn’t I hear about a local celebrity on Shark Tank? But it wasn’t until I read about Hungry Harvest that I became really intrigued and knew I had to meet the man who faced the sharks and won.
His story started in college where described the College Park area that houses the UMD campus as a bit of a food desert. The incomes tend to be low and the resources for food can be scarce. With others on campus, he helped create the Food Recovery Network which took unwanted fruit and vegetables and delivered them to families in need with the aid of a local CSA.
After graduation, he realized this was a concept that was not only important and needed but could also be a profitable venture. In fact, his business acumen is what caught the attention of the producers of Shark Tank last February when they contacted Evan inviting him to apply for the show. After submitting an audition tape and a 50 page application in April, he was cast in June when the show was taped and his deal was made.
But nobody knew that until the show aired on January 8th of this year. He had to sit on his secret for six months. But the word is out now. Although he asked for $50,000 in exchange for a 5% stake in the company, Shark Tank panelist Robert Herjavec offered Evan $100,000 for a 10% stake (and managed to win a few fans in the process).
— Robert Herjavec (@robertherjavec)
Herjavec saw what I saw when I met Evan Lutz the week after the show aired. He’s got a smart business model with minimal overhead that’s ready to scale. Here’s how Hungry Harvest works.
- Farmers and wholesalers have an excess of produce, some rejected for cosmetic reasons.
- Hungry Harvest buys the produce at deeply discounted prices and packages it for home delivery.
- Fresh, in-season produce is delivered to the customer’s doorstep once per week.
- For each box delivered, a food donation is made to donation partners that help distribute it to needy families in the community.
And logistically, they make it work by using produce wholesaler space on weekends that would otherwise go unused and contract out the delivery (with a 99% accuracy rate!). It works for the DC-Baltimore area and will soon be put to the test in Philadelphia (delivery starts January 31st). Soon after, they’ll be expanding to NYC, Northern NJ, Pittsburgh, and Richmond.
So the bottom line is this: more fresh fruits and vegetables in your hands, more fresh fruits and vegetables in the hands of the needy, and less food waste for reasons that only Americans could fathom.
If you are interested in trying out Hungry Harvest for whatever reasons suit you, Evan and team were generous enough to allow me to pass along a discount to all of my readers. When signing up, use the discount code AllThingsFadra (not case sensitive) for 50% off of your first order. And tell your friends!