Thrive Market Founder Gunnar Lovelace Talks Food Insecurity and Feeding America

December 10, 2015

Like every other Thrive Market employee, Gunnar Lovelace heads to the bright and open communal kitchen for his morning cup of coffee. “How was your weekend?” he asks a co-worker grabbing almond milk creamer from the fridge. 

With an open face and an easy grin, Lovelace is disarmingly kind, but he’s not just another Thriver—he’s the original. Lovelace dreamed up Thrive Market a decade ago, inspired by his childhood. Growing up with a single mom who did her best to provide organic, wholesome food for her family, as a kid he wondered why foods with an organic label came with an exorbitant price tag.

Lovelace has spoken openly about growing up in a food-insecure home. “There were many months as a child that my mom and I lived off of rice—and that was it,” he explains. And when Thrive Market finally came into being, the company’s vision was firmly rooted in the social mission to make healthy food accessible to all.  To Lovelace, this mission is one of the most important components of his work: “I have a lot of compassion for people who don’t have their basic survival needs met, because that was me.”

And not only has his vision been brought to life—Thrive Market offers more than 4,000 wholesome products at up to 50% off retail price—but his mission has, too. This holiday season, Thrive Gives teamed up with Feeding America to raise $200,000 for national food banks, and we’ve donated hundreds of thousands of year-long Thrive Gives memberships to food bank volunteers. For Lovelace, “It’s just really gratifying to be part of a community that are all working toward the common good.” We sat down with Thrive Market’s Co-CEO to learn more about the Feeding America partnership.

Thrive Market: Why Feeding America?

Gunnar Lovelace: I love Feeding America because they’re such a monumental organization; they’re the third largest nonprofit in the nation, the largest nonprofit focusing on food issues, and they help so many people every year. We’re serious about what we’re doing, and we want to reach as many people as possible.

TM: Thrive Market was founded on a social mission. How does this seasonal partnership with Feeding America reflect that?

GL: I love that it’s focused around the season of giving. Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. Taking a moment to be able to give thanks for what we have is so important, and this campaign coincides with a time when so many families aren’t in a position to experience this holiday as we typically imagine. It hits home with me—and it’s exciting to be able to give back.

TM: Beyond donating during the holiday season, how is Thrive making a difference in terms of hunger in America?

GL: This is a long-term effort on our part, and we know that this campaign alone won’t end hunger, but it’s a start. This is just the beginning for Thrive Gives and the work we envision doing to live up to our mission.

We’re working to make healthy living accessible to everybody, and to do that we want to improve price, availability, and education. On the price side, we’re offering products that previously were too expensive in stores at much lower prices because we sell them at a wholesale price. In terms of availability, we’ve gotten ourselves down to two- to three-day shipping nationally, so even people in food deserts can have access to food. When it comes to education, we’re offering essential information in our blog, in our magazine, and our online course “Health Hacks On a Budget”—and opening up a conversation about why these choices matter.

We don’t just hand over free memberships and wish people good luck. We want to give them a toolkit to succeed, to be healthy, and to thrive.

TM: It’s not just food-insecure families that qualify for Thrive Gives memberships. Why was it important to you to offer the same benefits to veterans, teachers, first responders, and students?

GL: For me, it was important to look at specific communities who do good in their communities. And for the most part, there aren’t a lot of extra resources available to these constituencies—so many of them are living paycheck to paycheck. The choice to be able to give them access was obvious: Of course we would!

TM: What’s the most inspiring aspect of holiday giving?

GL: Connecting with the testimonials from our Thrive Gives members. It makes all the struggle, sweat, and sacrifice worth it. To hear how something we might consider so small impacts their lives so much—it’s enormously gratifying and touching. When we get that context for what we’re doing and get to see that it really does make a difference … I’d happily work 18 hour days every day for the next five years! Connecting to our Thrive Gives families—that’s why we do what we do.

Until the end of December, Thrive Market members have the option to donate a portion of the savings from their orders to Feeding America. In the spirit of giving back, our friend and motivational speaker Tony Robbins will match every gift through his 100 Million Meals Challenge—together, we’ve committed to raising $200,000 for Feeding America by the end of the year.

Want to help us reach our $200,000 goal by the end of 2015? Load up your Thrive Market cart with all of your favorite foods and goods, and when it comes to checkout, opt to donate your savings to Feeding America. Whether it’s $1 or $10, you’re making a difference.

Photo credit: Alicia Cho

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Michelle Pellizzon

Certified health coach and endorphin enthusiast, Michelle is an expert in healthy living and eating. When she's not writing you can find her running trails, reading about nutrition, and eating lots of guacamole.


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