Funky Fruits, Ugly Veggies

Hungry Harvest finds homes for the produce no one wants to purchase.

It’s no question that we all love attractive- looking things, right down to the food we eat.

When shopping at the grocery store, we go for the finest looking fruits and vegetables, the ones that don’t have any spots or bruises, that are perfectly shaped and just the right color; we disregard produce that isn’t visually appealing but is perfectly fine otherwise. Unfortunately, this means all the ugly-but-edible apples and potatoes that aren’t bought simply get thrown away.

That’s where Hungry Harvest comes in. The farm-to-doorstep produce delivery service is a rescue resource for “ugly” produce that would otherwise go uneaten due to the aesthetic standards we demand of our food, as well as to farm overproduction and the standards of wholesalers and grocers.

The company, which came to Raleigh three years ago, gathers a variety of rescued produce that it then packages into harvest boxes and delivers to your doorstep—for about 20 percent less than the cost of what you’d typically find at the grocery store. The boxes come in three sizes—mini, full and super—which range from $15 to $50 and contain an assortment of fruits and vegetables, from peaches to cauliflower to fingerling potatoes.

Through the produce boxes, Hungry Harvest’s mission is to reduce food waste and support hunger-solving operations. Each delivery saves at least 10 pounds of produce from going to the dump, which puts a big dent in the 1.2 millions tons of produce that goes to waste each year in North Carolina.

“It’s really one of those win-win situations,” says Bart Creasman, Hungry Harvest’s Raleigh-Durham market manager. “You keep things from going in the trash and get a good price on something you’re probably buying anyway.”

Evan Lutz launched Hungry Harvest in 2014, selling leftover produce out of his dorm at the University of Maryland. After nearly failing twice, without enough money or customers to keep the business thriving, Hungry Harvest got its big break on the ABC show “Shark Tank,” where Lutz made a deal with investor Robert Herjavec. Now, the company operates in five different locations along the East Coast and has recovered five million pounds of food so far.

In addition to selling produce boxes, Hungry Harvest also partners to fight hunger with Raleigh’s Interfaith Food Shuttle. The company donates all of the produce it doesn’t sell to the nonprofit for use in in its various food programs. Hungry Harvest is also working to bring Produce in a SNAP, its Baltimore-based discount mini farmers market program, to areas of Raleigh that lack access to fresh produce.

Creasman says one of the most important components to Hungry Harvest’s work is education and promoting awareness, or “being aware that there’s a problem with food waste and how buying our produce solves that problem.” He notes that Raleigh is an especially fitting market for the company because of its well-educated population that cares about food issues, as well as the city’s thriving food scene. Both have allowed the company to make multiple connections with area farmers and sellers that share Hungry Harvest’s values.

Upon opening a produce box from Hungry Harvest, you may be surprised at just how appealing the fruits and vegetables contained within actually are. Even more appealing is the fact that every fruit and vegetable you eat from the box contributes to a better food system, reduces waste and helps create a more sustainable future.

Latest posts by Lauren Kruchten (see all)