After Hungry Harvest, a company that rescues and delivers produce to customers, was founded in 2014, Mark Leybengrub joined the team as chief operating officer. The CEO, Evan Lutz, was a friend of his. For the next few years, Leybengrub helped grow the startup.
Leybengrub, 29, grew up in Baltimore County, the son of immigrants from Ukraine, and attended Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School. He went to the University of Maryland, where he studied supply chain management and finance. After college, he worked for IBM before joining the Hungry Harvest team.
After several years at Hungry Harvest, Leybengrub decided he wanted to travel the world. Over the next nine months, he traveled through Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and more.
When the pandemic hit, he returned to Baltimore. Leybengrub now lives in Harbor East and works for Amazon.
What made you interested in joining Hungry Harvest?
A couple things. The first was an opportunity to build something out of nothing, just the thrill of creating a new business. I loved that it was a business that was based out of Baltimore. I love the idea of employing people from Baltimore, bringing people to Baltimore from other cities. That being a win for Baltimore. Baltimore gets a bad rap, so it’d be helpful. I also love the fact that it plays into the conscious capitalism movement. It’s the idea that you can do good for the world, tikkun olam, but you don’t have to not make money. You can align profit motives with good intentions for the world, benefiting your community, benefiting your employees, benefiting the customers. If you align that with profit motives, you might even be able to create a company that does the same work as a nonprofit but grows really quickly and does a lot of good work. People also want to be able to support companies that do things like that.
And you left to travel the world?
I felt like I wanted to understand universal truths a bit. I’ve been in my Baltimore bubble for a really long time. I lived in Europe for a bit; I lived in Chicago for a bit. This world is small on a universal scale, yet I’ve only seen a very small portion of it, and I wanted an opportunity to explore the world and in doing so test some of my values, test some of my beliefs, understand myself better. There’s a lot of things that exploring the world gives you.
How did Judaism shape you growing up?
I think for Americans who aren’t from immigrant families, especially European immigrant families, Judaism seems like more of a choice. Like, you can be Jewish, you can marry a non-Jew and distance yourself. For me, my parents are both from Eastern Europe. They’re both from Ukraine, Kyiv. My great-grandparents, grandparents all were affected by the Holocaust, and they lived through persecution in Eastern Europe. The Jewish Federation in Baltimore helped them come here. They always knew that Judaism wasn’t a choice; it was your ethnicity, it wasn’t even just your religion. So that’s how I’ve always been raised and what I’ve always believed. I’m Jewish by identity, and I’m proud of it.
What are you most looking forward to as the pandemic ends?
Live music. I love live music and every kind of music.