Evan Lutz has been interested in social entrepreneurship his entire life.
“I’m fascinated by the idea of using business to power social change,” he says.
So it’s no surprise that Lutz is CEO of Hungry Harvest, a farm-to-doorstep produce delivery service that’s on a mission to end food waste and hunger.
Lutz founded the company while at the University of Maryland six years ago where he spent many hours in his dorm’s basement, which he used as a workspace.
“I was hauling 50-pound bags of produce up and down stairs to the farm stand and desperately trying to get people to take a free sample,” he says. “The beginning was tough as I pleaded with the residence halls over spacing and tried to work out the supply chain by myself, yet I was determined to make this a success.”
Four months in, Lutz finally saw some traction and started getting customers.
“I had proven the concept could work, but it was just the beginning of an uphill run,” he says. “Our mission has always been clear: We believe every person has the right to eat healthy, and every fruit and vegetable deserves to be eaten. This idea guides everything we do: every employee, at every level.”
After graduating in 2014, Lutz took his farm stand concept and turned it into a delivery model, operating out of a produce market in Jessup, Maryland.
“Nobody had heard of ‘ugly produce’ before, and food waste was not as big of an issue when we were first getting started,” he says. “We were basically begging people to sign up for a free trial of our subscription service. After the first four months, having spent almost all of what was in our bank account, we only had 100 recurring customers to show for it. But we kept pushing forward.”
Fast forward to today: With the help of subscribers, Hungry Harvest has expanded to deliver in nine different markets and has rescued more than 27 million pounds of food from the dump, while providing over 1.7 million pounds of food to those in need. Its largest customer base is located in the D.C. region.
Each year, 20 billion pounds of produce goes uneaten before it even reaches retail, yet 20% of Americans live with food insecurity.
“Our goal is to reduce that gap by using one problem (food waste) to help solve another (food insecurity),” Lutz says. “Every delivery we make saves at least 10 pounds of food from going to waste, and helps support our hunger-solving initiatives through subsidized community markets and donations of produce to organizations throughout D.C., Maryland and Virginia.”
Approximately one in 10 residents of the metropolitan Washington region live with food insecurity, and nearly one-third of them are children. Since the start of the pandemic, food insecurity is estimated to have increased by 16% in the D.C. area.
“We saw this growing need at the beginning of the pandemic and launched our Emergency Food Box program to help get fresh food to people,” Lutz says. “Each box provides eight to 12 pounds of hearty fruits and vegetables. We’re continuing to work to provide produce boxes and build partnerships to support those in need wherever we can.”
Over the past year, Hungry Harvest has partnered with nonprofits, schools, faith-based organizations and hospitals to provide access to 77,000 boxes (and counting) of essential fresh food to families in need, almost 60,000 of which went to residents in the D.C. metro area.
“We’re constantly looking for ways to put more plants on more plates,” Lutz says. “No matter where you live or what your budget is, we believe everyone should have access to fresh produce.”
To lend your support, visit www.hungryharvest.net/giveback. There you can make a contribution that will go directly toward the Emergency Food Box program and extra produce donations to Hungry Harvest’s partner organizations. Follow Hungry Harvest on Instagram @hungryharvest.
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