Emily Frigon, now partnerships coordinator of Hungry Harvest, formerly worked as a hedge-fund analyst. / Photos courtesy Hungry Harvest

How many working people can say what Tammy Martinez does? “I wake up excited knowing that I am part of something incredible. I was heading up a marketing agency prior to this, and it felt a little empty at times at the end of the day.

“Every day, I now know that what I am contributing is helping make the world a better place — one piece of produce at a time!”

Tammy Martinez

Tammy is the South Florida market manager for Hungry Harvest (hungryharvest.net).

The company’s main belief is simple: “Every person has the right to eat healthy, and every fruit and veggie grown deserves to be eaten.”

Tough start

But in June 2014, when Evan Lutz co-founded the Baltimore, Md.-based company, things weren’t simple at all. “We knocked on doors in the sweltering (Washington) D.C. summer, desperately trying to convince anyone to get a free trial (of produce). The problem was that nobody knew what ‘ugly produce’ was at the time,” he says in a media release.

Today, Lutz is Hungry Harvest’s chief executive officer. And the company that began in June 2014 with 30 customers — 15 of them free trials — has grown to a team of 20 employees.

Just because produce is “ugly” doesn’t mean it isn’t good to eat. Hungry Harvest is a “food-waste warrior” — collecting produce that would otherwise go uneaten and then distributing — or, to use Hungry Harvest’s own term, “rescuing” — it.

There is a Hungry Harvest (HH) chapter in Miami, where Market Manager Tammy works, that delivers food from Boca Raton, in Palm Beach County, south to Kendall, in Miami-Dade County.

She points out that HH is “a for-profit social enterprise. We believe that we can build a sustainable and successful business model and still do good in the world.”

Tammy started out as a Hungry Harvest customer in 2017. “I was blown away by the concept and became really passionate about the brand. I recently joined the team full-time and couldn’t be more excited to spread the word about who we are and what we do.”

So far, the 4-year-old company has kept 5 million pounds of food from going to landfills and now operates in seven states and Washington, D.C.

How much food is wasted?

A shocking 40 percent of food in the United States goes uneaten, and 20 percent of Americans are “food-insecure,” according to hungryharvest.net.

This wasn’t always so: “100 years ago, farmers could sell their entire harvest, regardless of size, shape or superficial beauty of their produce. People understood that a small apple was as delicious as a large one, a misshapen carrot as nutrient-rich as any other. Today, demand for aesthetic perfection & homogeneity in produce makes whole-harvest selling impossible for farmers,” Hungry Harvest’s website notes.

HH doesn’t use “ugly” to describe the produce it collects; it’s “rescued produce.” The company also uses terms such as “food justice” and “food deserts” — hardly household phrases.

From hedge fund to Hungry Harvest

Emily Frigon, partnerships coordinator for Hungry Harvest, also changed careers. “In a previous life, I was a hedge-fund analyst. I could not be happier with my career change to an organization as wonderful as HH. Eating healthfully does not need to be complicated or expensive — it should be accessible for everyone!”

Emily lives in Washington, D.C. Most days, she works remotely from home but, once a week, commutes to the company’s Baltimore headquarters. She started in 2017 as an HH ambassador before becoming a full-timer earlier this year.

Emily has seen, first-hand, how Hungry Harvest’s deliveries can help: “I met a single mother with three kids who really struggled with trying to get healthy fruits and veggies on the table for her kids. She was so grateful to learn that Hungry Harvest provided convenient produce, at a reduced cost, right to her doorstep. Her kids now look forward to seeing what is coming in the box each week, and they’re able to easily implement more vegetables into their meals.”

What gives the Chicago-born Emily the greatest satisfaction about being at Hungry Harvest? “It is very easy to see the direct impact of what we do. When people understand that ‘recovered’ food has nothing inherently ‘wrong’ with it, their eyes light up, and I can see how quickly they come to understand the necessity of our work.”

To see where Hungry Harvest delivers in South Florida, visit hungryharvest.net/where-we-deliver.