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Thinking Inside the Box

Will Kornegay ’09 connects farmers hit by the pandemic with families who need food.

By Carole Tanzer Miller

When COVID-19 put his business plans on hold, Will Kornegay ’09 relied on savvy and faith to swiftly pivot. Now, he’s providing a market for farm products that might otherwise go to waste and helping feed North Carolinians hard hit by mounting food insecurity.

“The fact that 40 percent of farmers’ crops are lost or left in the field every year and that one in eight families faces food insecurity . . . is just unimaginable to me,” he says. “My goal is to bridge the gap between excess and access.”

His company — Ripe Revival Market in Rocky Mount, N.C. — is doing exactly that. Kornegay drew on previous experiences fulfilling mail-order subscriptions for outdoor gear and, later, working with farmers to fight hunger, to meet needs laid bare by the pandemic.

My goal is to bridge the gap between excess and access.

With virus-wary customers avoiding stores, Kornegay, 34, stepped in to deliver boxes of meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables to their doorsteps. The boxes, filled with North Carolina products in season, provide a market for farmers and food producers whose orders slowed or dried up as restaurants and institutions cut back due to COVID-19. Under one popular option for his customers, Kornegay donates a box of tasty but imperfect produce to a needy family whenever a customer purchases a box for themselves.

Some boxes also include the product he was poised to launch before his pandemic pivot — high-protein fruit and veggie gummies. As the gummies and other planned products made from what Kornegay dubs “perfectly imperfect” produce find their way to market, he says the subscription boxes will continue as part of a broader mission.

“I just feel driven to serve others, and my faith plays a big role in that,” says Kornegay, who founded Ripe Revival with his sister Laura Hearn ’06. “I think food is a common currency that everybody understands, so my hope is that if I can impact people through food that they will learn to do the same and we can make the world a better place together.”

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