Eating Organic and Reducing Waste with Hungry Harvest

Grapes, carrots, heirloom cherry tomatoes, brussel sprouts, pluots, beets and green leaf lettuce.
A sample of a recent Hungry Harvest delivery.

A while back, my sister, Renee, told me about a company called Hungry Harvest. Now my sister is not just any sister 🙂 She is a legit authority on local eating and food sustainability issues and literally wrote the book on eating local in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Over the years, she and I have talked about ways that we as consumers can support nearby, independent farmers, such as farmers markets and community-supported agriculture (CSA). I’ve always loved the concept of CSAs, but their traditional model involved paying $200-500 during planting season for a guaranteed share of their yields. When I was younger — though I really wanted to support and get that farm-fresh produce — my budget did not allow for the upfront costs and my schedule did not allow for the weekly pick-ups from the farm.

So I was super excited when she told me about Hungry Harvest because it sounded like a model that would work for me and help with a larger mission. Hungry Harvest is not a traditional CSA that’s working with one farm to get produce out to the local community. They’re more like an aggregator working with a number of farms to rescue and redistribute viable produce that would otherwise be wasted.

Their mission speaks to a personal one of mine. I do my best to reduce food waste in our household, mainly by sticking to a weekly cooking routine that builds in days for leftovers. But my cooking schedule is not the large-scale solution needed to fully address the problem (though I do think it’s important to do something on the individual household level…every bit helps!).

As a country, we throw away 40% of our food. Roughly 20 billion pounds of produce is lost before leaving the farm. (BILLION!) Often times, produce that is too big, too small or oddly shaped or crops that farmers overgrew get sent to the landfill. Hungry Harvest finds the opportunities in the food production chain to rescue delicious and healthy produce and take it both straight to consumers and communities in need. According to their website, “So far, with the help of our Harvest Heroes, we’ve rescued over 10 million pounds of food from going to waste & provided access to over 850,000 pounds of fruits & veggies to those who are food insecure.”

They also nailed it on the price point and convenience. My mini organic harvest box with an add-on of jumbo eggs ($30.49) is delivered every other week. (Mini conventionally grown boxes start at $15). Here are some examples of what we’ve received:

You choose the frequency, size and category (i.e., all fruit, all vegetable or fruit and vegetable) and whether you want a conventionally grown or organic box. You can also strike fruits and veggies that you don’t like from your deliveries and add extra items that they have available, such as bread, organic eggs and produce not offered in the normal box distribution.

The produce has been reliably fresh, tasty and interesting and it’s introduced us to some foods that we were unfamiliar with. A few of our new favorites: star fruit, pomegranate and pluots (we got a whole lotta pluots!).

I have had such a positive experience with Hungry Harvest. The boxes are a great value for the price. Customer service is great. They send an email a few days before your delivery explaining what’s in your box and why (e.g. “We’re sending you oranges that weren’t big enough to meet the retailer’s standard, but they’re great for juicing.”) They offer gift certificates. And they are expanding to a number of states. The company is local – the founder is a University of Maryland grad and they’re based in Baltimore. They even got funded on Shark Tank! What’s not to love?

If you try this service, and I highly recommend you do, sharpen your knives and invest in a good vegetable peeler. It also helps if you prep and store your items the day that you get them so they’re ready to use when you need them.

Depending on how you cook and eat, you may find that there’s a few things that don’t get used. I try not to sweat these moments. I’ve had good luck using my box for inspiration for dinner party menus. Cooking for a crowd has helped me use up more of the produce and guarantee that nothing goes to waste.

I hope you try and enjoy your harvest box. (Here’s my referral link if you’d like to use it – no pressure! – http://hharvest.net/m5eaKnv) And while you’re at it, take note of how much better everything tastes with alongside a dose of social good!

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