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How come socially conscious enterprises don’t get more attention? How come individuals don’t see the role they too can play in making change?

I’m taking a brief detour from my energy-oriented series to share a story—and possibly a lesson—about the value of taking the next step.  My energy-oriented series of posts will continue on Tuesday with a precautionary look at residential solar units.

On Friday night I was privileged to be in attendance at the Shark Tank Watch Party with fans of Hungry Harvest. Hungry Harvest is a socially conscious upstart business which seeks to reduce food waste and to simultaneously reduce hunger.

Anyone who recalled—or cared—that I had written a letter to the editor critical of the new firm as it was described in the Aug. 26, 2015 Howard County Times article “Howard start-up targets food waste,”  might have been surprised to see me included as an invited guest.

In my September 2 letter I applauded Healthy Harvest’s mission of finding a market for fresh and edible produce “rejects” and in turn providing free meals to those in need. But I was, once again, miffed that MY part of the county would see no  benefit from their their well-intentioned programs.

I was left wondering, if future plans for this start-up, supported by and located in Howard County, would address the needs of struggling Howard County residents as well as those in urban Baltimore City and Washington.

According to the Times article’s description, Hungry Harvest:

  • buys surplus food from farms throughout the Mid-Atlantic region,
  • which is then bagged in its Jessup warehouse
  • by men from a Montgomery County homeless shelter.

In my LTE I stated my hope that future plans would include

  • employing the chronically homeless, for whom housing is being built in Jessup, HoCo
  • donating to local food banks, including Grassroots Day Resource Center in Jessup, the Bread of Life Food Pantry in Savage, and the North Laurel Multiservice Center
  • offering home delivery to residents in Jessup, Savage and North Laurel and
  • purchasing more produce from local Howard County farmers.

Ultimately, my letter to the editor did nothing more than possibly make me feel a little better for getting my feelings off my chest.  I might have let it go at that, but then:

  1. winter came and with it the promise of the seasonal increase in panhandling along the Route 1 corridor and
  2. all the publicity surrounding Hungry Harvest’s appearance on the ABC show Shark Tank emerged

I decided to try to register for regular delivery to verify whether the delivery area had ever been expanded to include my area.  After an extremely frustrating experience with the web site I was told I was being placed on the “waiting list.” Realizing that the Shark Tank publicity was bound to drive more business their way I thought it prudent to let Hungry Harvest know that their website was NOT functioning properly –and to inquire about my “waiting list” status.  Like all too many business websites today Hungry Harvest does not reveal a phone number—just an e-mail address to contact them.  I sent my e-mail and went off to take a nap, confident I wouldn’t hear from them.HHshark

And this is where the whole Hungry Harvest story took a turn for me.  I was pleasantly surprised to receive a call within a half hour thanking me for letting them know about the website issue—since no one else had. They explained that they don’t deliver into my area because they don’t currently have any customers here. However, they would endeavor to attach me to another route so that delivery could begin in a few weeks. I assured them that there was indeed a market for both their produce and a need for their donations to support those who are struggling locally.  After hanging up I thought, WOW, that was a very responsive and courteous interaction. This recent business school graduate had clearly not skipped any of courses on customer satisfaction.

As is often the case, my brain continued to spin on thoughts of Hungry Harvest long after the phone call concluded.  Before long, I had thought of numerous local community groups with which I have involvement who could help spread the word about HH’s program. I was confident they would be on board with becoming HH customers if they felt the food to subsequently be donated would serve local people and could possibly provide employment for the homeless of the Route One corridor.

I e-mailed Hungry Harvest with ideas on how I might help them market into Southeast HoCo and asked to set up a meeting.  To make this longer- than- I- intended post a bit shorter, let me just say how very pleased I was at how receptive they were.  My interactions, particularly with Mark Leybengrub, CSO, have clearly converted me from Grumbler to HH Apostle.

The passion and commitment of the young men and women involved with HH permeated the Shark Tank Watch party.  As a senior citizen I left with the comforting thought that this upcoming generation does include bright, talented, and caring people. I was so pleased to be with them and share in the jubilation when Shark Tank revealed founder Evan Lutz’s success in acquiring a $100,000 investment in Healthy Harvest.  The look of pride on Evan’s grandmother’s face made it all the sweeter to me!

HHfirstDeliveryI wish all of the dedicated team at HH much success.  Today I felt the personal success of having my first box of produce delivered to my door. I had planned to show it off as a “marketing tool” at Tuesday’s meetings of both the Senior Council at the North Laurel Community Center and the Savage Community Association.  However, I may just share the picture above. There are tempting things I want to eat from my mini-box now.

It was a special treat to receive a text alert informing me when my delivery was 6 minutes away and having such a delightful, friendly delivery person arrive as predicted.  We are definitely off to a good start!  Mark informs me HH has future plans to allow customers to designate the recipient of the free food generated by their orders.  This will be a very welcome addition.

Moral of the story: Reaching Out rather than Mouthing Off is a more effective strategy for bringing about needed change. Sounds like an especially good moral for writers and bloggers……..

Go order some produce with a purpose—and meet me on the high road,