Impact Foods, a one-for-one concept company started by SMU graduates Ben Hurt and Blaine Iler, is making a big impact on one of the world’s biggest problems–hunger. Their mission is to end it, period. Read on to be utterly inspired by the soul of this company’s mission, learn why the issue of hunger is so crucial to tackle, and hear from Ben, an entrepreneur who believes in using the benefits of our American freedom to foster change.
LOLO Magazine is excited to partner up with Impact Foods in hosting a giveaway. We have 10 bags of granola to pass out to those who “like” their Facebook page as well as LOLO’s page. It’s that easy. Plus, you are raising awareness for an amazing cause.
What led you want to start this business model in the food industry? Tell us why you personally are invested in this mission as well.
Blaine and I met in an entrepreneurship class at SMU. We were the only students who had previously started other businesses, and we naturally gravitated toward each other to start working on projects (software, websites, clothing, etc.). Then, in class, we learned about companies like Patagonia and TOMS Shoes – companies that saw enterprise as an opportunity to make our world a better place – and we were captivated. We loved the one-for-one type model, and looked at the biggest problems facing our planet so we could start from the ground up. These problems included health, poverty, and hunger. Fundamental stuff. The one that struck a nerve with us was hunger. It sounds silly, but I love food. My day revolves around food. I spend time between meals talking about my last one and thinking about the next one. It physically pains me to think about others not having food, knowing how much it means to me. That, and some of those other problems are linked to food, or lack of food. If you and I got on a plane today to go build a school in an African village, but the children suffered from malnutrition, they would have no energy to learn or retain information. So we will tackle hunger first, since it can serve as part of the solution to other problems like health care, poverty, and education.
How did you choose your ingredients?
I have a family friend who works in the best food city in the world, New York. She helped us come up with this perfect recipe that includes olive oil and sea salt. Yumm.
Can you describe what it looks like to make the granola at this point?
Right now, I still make the granola by hand. We are growing, so soon that will change. And that’s a good thing. “Growth” to me means the opportunity to help more people. But for now, making granola looks like this: I go into the kitchen on Sunday mornings with my dad and get set up. We mix the dry ingredients first, then mix those with the wet. It doesn’t take long for the entire room to smell like Olive Oil and Maple Syrup. It doesn’t get much better than that. Then it bakes, we let it cool, and bag it up! From there it goes to a store near you so that you can scoop some up and help feed kiddos – it’s that easy.
Tell us about the quality of your ingredients.
We use the good stuff! All natural, so your getting your essential fats from olive oil and coconut, and your energy from natural sources like maple syrup.
Describe to us how you follow through with feeding children. What do their meals consist of?
At first, our giving process was relatively grassroots. We put money aside for each bag sold, then took that money down to Honduras and actually purchased meals there for the children from local markets. This was important to us because that helped stimulate their local economy. Now that we are growing, so is our model of giving. While in Honduras on our last hunger trip, we learned so much about the best ways to actually help feed kiddos, and we are already putting those findings into action. For example, we would see big bags of rice and beans piled up at the schools for their “school lunch programs”….but there was only one problem…these schools had no kitchens to cook rice and beans. So we are currently partnering with organizations who make Ready-to-Use foods (RTU’s) to be distributed so that we know the kids can eat what we deliever. So now, for every Impact Foods product you buy, you’ll be donating an Impact Foods hunger pack to a child in need.
What countries are you targeting at this point and why?
The unfortunate reality about hunger is that it’s everywhere. You don’t have to go to Honduras or Africa to see it. So Impact Foods tackles hunger locally by volunteering our time, and abroad with hunger drops like the one we just took. That helps us stay within our one-for-one model for now. Otherwise, you’d be paying $14 for a bag of granola. So we have countries that we have identified as “high-impact” areas based on research done by the World Food Programme. These areas include the usual suspects; Africa, Rural Asia, India, South and Central America; but truthfully we don’t rule any country out.
Where there is hunger, Imapct Foods is working on a solution to combat it.
Favorite memory from your first trip?
Honduras was incredible. But actually, my favorite memory was the plane ride back. Blaine and I sat down, cracked open a laptop, and started working through next steps. Next event. Next hunger drop. Next emails. Next everything. Helping a few people was awesome and the experience of a lifetime, but we wanted to know how to help and empower everyone. It is my favorite moment because it was clear that he and I were in this for the long haul. This is our life’s work.
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What are your internal (the employees) and external (the impact) goals for the future of this company?
Right now, Blaine and I both work full-time jobs and run Impact Foods on nights and weekends. So our short-term goal is to grow to the point where Impact Foods becomes the full-time gig. Honestly, I get so excited thinking about how many more people he and I will be able to help when we can pour all of our time and energy into Impact. Long term, our goal is genuinely to end hunger. The way I look at it, we both have 80 years left in our working lives. 80 years! Think about all that has happened in the last 80 years. Seriously. Google what a car looked like in the 1920’s or 30’s. Google what a computer looked like in the 1950’s. Now think about the fact that your car today probably has 20 different computers in it. And we’ve walked on the moon! And on and on. 80 years is a long time. So it’s that simple, either we end hunger, or we put the pieces in place for posterity to do so.
What is your favorite way to eat the granola?
Literally everyone I talk to has their own ritual with Impact Foods granola. Personally, I like to pour mine into yogurt and sprinkle some blackberries on top.
As a foodie yourself, what are your top three favorite eateries in Dallas? Is there one favorite restaurant you have in another state that stands out dramatically?
I’m an emotional dude, so all three of my restaurants are for sentimental reasons, so no judging!
Abacus – My buddies took me here for my birthday last year for my quarter-life crisis birthday (the big 2-5). We all got a bunch of food and shared. That’s my idea of heaven. Lobster shooters for the win! Kent Rathbun is the man.
Parigi – I’m always sad when people say they’ve never been here. I like it for three reasons. One, it is somehow always the perfect place to go. Date night? Parigi. Friends night? Parigi. Rough day at work and need comfort food alone? Parigi. Second, the owner Janice is one of my favorite people on the planet. If you aren’t familiar with the work she’s doing with Cafe Momentum – please please check it out. And finally…I’m a burger guy…and the best one I’ve ever had was at Parigi. The burger changes everyday, and I haven’t had a bad one yet.
Taco Joint – Some of my best memories are sitting at Taco Joint with my friends after an…eventful…Friday night. Migas tacos. Jalepeno ranch. Nuf Said.
In terms of another state, I’d just recommend a one-way ticket to San Francisco and don’t stop eating until you run out of money. I’m dead serious too. You’re talking to a man who has done it. Nom Nom.
I wish I had a story for you here, but the granola part is rather arbitrary. It was a foot in the door. We wanted to start helping people immediately, and the one thing we knew how to make was granola. We are moving into other snack foods and healthy lunches as early as this year.
Do you enjoy cooking? What is your favorite thing to make?
For me, cooking is that hobby that you love, and don’t spend nearly enough time doing. Cooking fascinates me. It relaxes me. It welcomes my ADD with open arms. It also gives me an excuse to watch Giada Delaurentiis on the Food Network. I love making Autumn meals. Butternut squash soup, roasted meats, etc. I’ll be making a Thanksgiving meal for my friends this year for the first time. Pretty pumped.
Any food blogs that you are addicted to?
Blaine’s dad is a hero of mine. A legitimate hero. In addition to putting his family first and being a successful businessman, he also finds time to (1) cook, (2) cook well, and (3) pass his wisdom along via his food blog. It’s the one I pull recipes from the most. Other than that, the Cooks Illustrated website is an invaluable resource.
What is your favorite city to eat out in?
You let me pick three restaurants, so I’m going to pick three cities as well.
1) Dallas. It’s where my friends and family are. The best meals of my life have very little to do with the food, and everything to do with how much my stomach hurts from laughing so hard with the people I love most, especially my brother.
2) San Francisco. You don’t want me to start. I won’t stop.
3) New York. I have only been once, so tell the die-hards out there to forgive my naivety.
Favorite dessert? Favorite food? Favorite snack? Favorite meal of the day?
Snack: Impact Foods Granola, silly!
Meal: Whichever meal is shared with someone I love on any given day – that’s my favorite. Generally dinner with friends.
Food: Toast. Yup, just, toast. For me, there is NO better food experience than this: My grandparents (Nana and Dad-Doc) are nocturnal, like me. Nana stays up reading and writing and watching Craig Ferguson, while Dad-Doc watches anything to do with politics and history. When I am down at their place near Austin, I make toast with this Oat Nut bread they always have. I put real butter and a little salt on there. And Nana always has coffee on, so I pour some in one of their old coffee mugs. I always think about the things those mugs have seen over the years. Over fifty years of marriage. Three kids being born, raised, and having children of their own. Moving houses. The mugs have seen it all.
So I sit there, with my toast and my coffee and I talk to Nana about Impact Foods, or what girl I have a crush on, or how my brother is doing – or I talk to Dad-Doc about the Presidency, or war, or his childhood. And then the toast is gone. And even on the nights where I don’t remember taking a single bite, those are the best food memories of my entire life. To me, that’s what food is about.
Learn more about this life-changing initiative and see where you can buy this bigger-than-life (and tasty) granola here.