Evan Lutz ’14 believes Hunger in America remains a problem for two reasons: faulty distribution channels and price. As a Maryland student, this reality bothered Lutz and inspired him to do something about it. In 2014, Lutz started the Food Recovery CSA, which was designed to redistribute surplus healthy food to students at a price they could afford. He set up shop outside of the Stamp Student Union and sold bags of surplus produce that had been discarded at local farms due to imperfections. Lutz developed the project as a Social Innovation Fellow in the Smith School of Business’s Center for Social Value Creation and through an internship with the Food Recovery Network and funded by the School of Public Policy’s Do Good Institute (formerly the Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership).
Lutz and his team competed in the 2014 Do Good Challenge, recovering over 5000 pounds of food and generating $3900 through direct produce sales. These efforts made him a 2014 Do Good Challenge finalist and he attributes the Do Good experience to much of his later success: “The judges really dug into our numbers and forced us to think about our costs…their encouragement also validated our idea and encouraged us to take it further as something that could scale.” Lutz further attributes the feedback from the Challenge judges as the driver that helped him restructure their business model and focus on attracting consumers from outside the campus community.
Since the Challenge, Lutz founded Hungry Harvest, a new social enterprise company based on the original model but with a very different customer base. Hungry Harvest is a direct home produce delivery company that is working to increase access to fruits and vegetables and fight hunger at the same time. By working with local nonprofit partners, Hungry Harvest donates a healthy meal for every box of food a customer buys. The food they sell also fits their original model, with much of the food sold being what grocery stores would consider ugly, like apples that are too small or carrots that are misshapen. Other food sold is considered surplus. “Our top priority is that food is not going to waste,” said Lutz.
In January 2016, Lutz appeared on the ABC Television show Shark Tank where he accepted a $100,000 offer from investor Robert Herjavec for 10 percent of his company. Lutz will use the money to pursue an aggressive expansion strategy. Right now consumers can receive produce from Hungry Harvest in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia but the company is expanding to New York and Pennsylvania. “In the next five years we want Hungry Harvest to be the largest direct-to-home food delivery service on the East coast and the largest in the U.S. in 10,” said Lutz. In early 2017, Forbes named Lutz one of the top 30 social entrepreneurs under 30.
Reflecting back on the Do Good Challenge, Lutz recalls it as a true moment of euphoria: “It was the first time I spoke in front of a large audience and the first time I really knew what I wanted to do.”