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Surprising Science

A New Grocery Store Ripe with Ideas Offers Aging Food at a Discount

The Daily Table, a new Boston grocery store from the ex-president of Trader Joe’s, sells nearly expired food items at a steep discount.

A new grocery store in Boston opened last week with the promise that they would stock nothing but the freshest food available. Oh wait. Whoops, I got that mixed up. The promise is that if you’re looking for the not-so-freshest food on the market, and at the best price, the Daily Table is the place you’ll want to go.

Okay, that doesn’t make for the greatest slogan, but this new store from former Trader Joe’s president Doug Rauch is built upon a very cool idea. Curt Nickisch of NPR explains:

“Daily Table opened its doors Thursday with shelves full of surplus and aging food.

The nonprofit grocery store is in the low-to-middle income Boston neighborhood of Dorchester. It’s selling canned vegetables two for $1 and a dozen eggs for 99 cents. Potatoes are 49 cents a pound. Bananas are 29 cents a pound…

The reason these prices are so low? Most of the stock is donated by food wholesalers and markets. It either didn’t sell or it’s surplus.

Did you know that one-third of the food produced in the United States gets thrown out? A hefty portion of that figure (roughly 13 billion pounds) can be attributed to supermarkets. Factor in the 49 million Americans who live in “food insecure” households, and you quickly realize we’re dealing with a massive inefficiency vis-à-vis distribution of food items. In both economical and ethical terms, there’s no reason why that much demand should be met with wasted supply. That’s where Rauch comes in.

Rauch has made it a goal for several years now to develop a business model for selling food that otherwise would go bad. Nutritious food — produce, in particular — is a high priority for Rauch, who knows low-income American families tend to maintain unhealthy diets. The food at Daily Table will likely have a shorter shelf life than what you’d find at the nearby corporate grocery, but for the price paid it’s certainly a welcome value. What will prove most interesting will be whether Rauch’s idea takes off.

We’ll check back on this story a few months from now to see if his charitable investment has paid off.

Read more about this story at NPR.

Below, investigative reporter Eric Schlosser details the dark side of American agriculture, in particular the exploitation of poor workers: 

Photo credit: SERGEI GAPON/AFP/Getty Images


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