As carrot after carrot disappeared into her friend’s countertop juicer, Kaitlin Mogentale stared with her mouth agape at the growing pile of shredded pulp collecting in the device.
The USC environmental studies major had visited trendy Los Angeles juice bars many times, but she never realized how much of the fruit and vegetables needed to create her tasty beverage ended up in the trash.
“As a consumer, you don’t see all that waste,” she said. “What if we could use this pulp to create healthy snacks that are high in fiber and nutritional value?”
That moment of realization led Mogentale to launch Pulp Pantry, a startup that uses discarded pulp to create grain-free, high-fiber foods like granola, seed and veggie crisps and baking flours. Although the 24-year-old alumna created the business only a year ago, her products already have landed in select stores.
It’s not exactly the path Mogentale had envisioned when she came to USC as an undergraduate who was passionate about environmental justice. She had her sights set on becoming a marine biologist. But exposure to classes in social entrepreneurship and policy and planning shifted her focus toward having a broader impact on society.
She credits the change to her participation in the USC Mork Family Scholars Program, a highly selective scholarship initiative that covers tuition and provides an annual stipend to promising undergraduates at USC.
“They want you to do something extraordinary,” Mogentale said of USC Trustee John Mork and his wife, Julie, who created the program in 2011 with a $110 million donation. “The reason they are giving these scholarships is because they believe these students are going to do something that pushes them to their limits. It created that mindset of ‘always be pushing the limits’ and that I’m really worth something.”
Push the limits she did. She carried 20 units nearly every semester at USC, trying out subjects like nonprofit management and interning with the Garden School Foundation, a nonprofit that provides hands-on cooking and gardening classes to children in local Los Angeles schools.
Social entrepreneurship’s forward-looking nature gave Mogentale much-needed optimism, especially since she had popularized the term “ecodepression” among her peers as a way to describe how disheartened she had become about protecting the environment.