At least forty percent of food is wasted in America. Much of that is because, as consumers, we’re pretty picky. In turn, imperfect produce—whether bruised, too small, or misshapen—isn’t even allowed to hit the grocery store shelves per USDA regulation, which factors in a two percent “tolerance” rate for selling ugly produce.
But companies like Hungry Harvest are part of a viable solution. The subscription home delivery service recovers delicious produce deemed “ugly” from local farms and grocery stores and delivers it to consumers’ doorsteps. Last week, the Maryland-based company launched its Triangle service with the help of chef Ashley Christensen, who is partnering to spread the word about the issue of food waste.
The event at Bridge Club (part of the AC Restaurants group) featured a discussion. Hungry Harvest CEO and founder Evan Lutz spoke about selling onions out of his college dorm room and realizing there was a demand and a need for fresh produce everywhere.
Beyond that, he saw the connection between salvaging forgotten and wasted food and feeding the hungry. Hungry Harvest went on to win financial backing through Shark Tank.
“The consequences of food waste are environmental and economical, but it also has an impact on an ethical level,” he said. “Forty percent of food is wasted, but fifteen percent of Americans are also food insecure. It’s a paradox, and that’s something we really need to work to solve.”
Hungry Harvest has recovered five million pounds of food since it began in 2014, donating 700,000 pounds to food-insecure communities. Lutz said 100,000 pounds of fresh food have been donated to hungry families just in the past year. The service is now accepting subscriptions all over the Triangle.
Christensen acknowledged her role as a chef to educate her own restaurant guests about the food on their plates.
“Chefs don’t always want to tell you what to eat at our restaurants. I want to talk about what to eat at home,” she said. “The innovation lies in how to teach farmers to speak to chefs, then chefs speak to guests, then guests go cook at home, and it comes back to the farmers.”
She told the crowd that her best advice is to not go shopping for food unless you’re planning for at least three meals. In keeping with the theme, Christensen announced that her next cookbook project, co-written with her partner Kaitlyn Goalen, will be called Freezer Sessions, focused on the economical and resourceful way she grew up eating with her family in North Carolina—not one bit of food wasted.