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Former Trader Joe’s Exec to Open Store with Expired Foods

Former Trader Joe’s Exec to Open Store with Expired Foods


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Sound weird? It might not be such a bad idea.

The Daily Table is a grocery store concept created by former Trader Joe's president Doug Rauch to sell expired foods at a discounted price in order to promote healthy eating and food waste reduction.

A new grocery project is in the works, aiming to make healthy food more affordable and reduce food waste at the same time. The catch? The food sold there will be expired.

Doug Rauch, former president of Trader Joe’s, is opening a new market in Dorchester, Mass. that will sell food that is “slightly past its sell-by date,” according to NPR. The project is called The Daily Table and is expected to open early next year.

Rauch says that 40 percent of food is wasted because expiration dates are misinterpreted. He believes food could be stretched out past its sell-by date because it’s still edible.

The Daily Table will sell these items at discounted prices to make healthy options more affordable. Rauch also told Boston Globe that oftentimes the cheapest meals are the unhealthiest.

Rauch added that the new grocery store will sell takeout items like soups, salads, stews, casseroles, and wraps. There will also be packaged chopped vegetables and milk past its expiration date for $1. There will also be a kitchen area where people can learn how to cook fast and healthy meals.

Although it seems like a farfetched idea to shop for expired foods, we think it will work if people can get over the fact that the food is past its sell-by date.


Former Trader Joe’s Exec: Selling “Rich Man’s Garbage” to the Poor?

If you’re not too concerned about “gently expired” or slightly damaged packages of food, you can save a lot by shopping at “scratch and dent” stores. But is it right to peddle such products to those who may have no other options?

Doug Rauch, the former president of Trader Joe’s, is working to open a nonprofit store in Boston that caters to low-income residents – with past-its-sell-by-date food. His Urban Food Initiative would take products that supermarkets would otherwise discard, and offer them at deep discounts to those who can’t afford everyday supermarket prices. If the idea works, he plans to expand it nationwide.

Rauch is raising money from donors, and using a lot of his own, to launch the initiative. But would all that money be better served by, say, buying unexpired food and donating it?

Jose Alvarez, a former Stop & Shop president who is now on the Urban Food Initiative board, understands that the idea may appear unseemly at first. They don’t want low-income customers to think “Hey, I’m going to be eating the rich man’s garbage,” he tells the Boston Globe. What he wants people to think instead is, “you could have bought this yesterday at Whole Foods or Stop & Shop for $2, and today you can get it at Doug’s store for a dollar, or 50 cents, and it’s perfectly fine.”

That’s what fans of so-called scratch-and-dent stores have long believed. Once relegated to the fringes, such stores have gone mainstream recently, with growing chains like Grocery Outlet Bargain Market. To those who believe many expiration dates are just a suggestion, and damaged packages have no effect on the product inside, stores like the Grocery Outlet can be a bargain-hunter’s dream. In fact, at one store in Spokane, Washington, a whole shipment of products from the defunct company Hostess recently showed up. The store acquired them from a source that froze them, after the company went bankrupt late last year. “We’ve got some real treasures here if you look,” the manager told Spokane’s KXLY.

So maybe Twinkies never really expire, no matter what’s printed on the outside of the box. But fresh food does – as shoppers at “Rodney’s Discount Foods Clearance, Scratch and Dents” in Virginia recently found out. The owner was arrested last year for allegedly reselling meat and dairy products that he fished out of other grocery store’s dumpsters (read: “Scratches, Dents – Oh, And Putrid Dumpster Meat, Too”).

Rauch insists nothing like that would happen at his store. He says tossing food, just because it reaches a sometimes arbitrary sell-by date, is a huge waste. Supermarkets, he says, throw out an estimated $47 billion worth of food each year. Reclaiming just a portion of that would not only help eliminate food waste, but help make nutritious food more affordable to those who need it most. Milk priced at a dollar a gallon, for example, would make it less expensive than soda. Salads and sandwiches created from products destined for the dumpster, would be less expensive than a fast food burger and fries. He likens his effort to Goodwill, which resells donated but still usable clothes.

In a recent report on food waste, the Natural Resources Defense Council notes that many stores pull items off their shelves two to three days before their sell-by dates, which it points out are really just “manufacturer suggestions for peak quality.” Most foods, it says, are safe to eat well past their printed use-by dates. Alvarez says stores stock more products than they can possibly sell, particularly produce, to keep their displays looking bountiful and fresh. And were it not for initiatives like Rauch’s, all that produce would serve as mere “props” that would otherwise go to waste.

Rauch knows his idea is a tough sell, though. At Trader Joe’s, he aimed to keep prices low by selling a limited assortment of store-brand – and unexpired – products. His new venture is a whole different kind of business model. “We don’t want it,” one neighbor of his proposed store told the Boston Globe. “Why would we?” But others were more open to the idea. “If it’s surplus and it’s usable,” another neighborhood resident said, “I’d rather have it in the hands of people who can use it than see it go in the trash.”


A former Trader Joe's executive is leading a revolution in cheap groceries

The nonprofit store, called Daily Table, keeps costs low by collecting and selling food that other grocery stores are planning to toss out, founder Doug Rauch tells Business Insider. The store opened Thursday in the Boston neighborhood of Dorchester.

At Daily Table, one dozen eggs cost .99, a pound of bananas is .29, a meal of roasted chicken with rice and vegetables is $1.49, and a 22-ounce container of kale-and-sausage soup is $1.29.

After three decades of working in the grocery industry, Rauch launched Daily Table to better serve the working poor and reduce food waste.

Roughly 31% of food produces in the US every year goes uneaten, yet one in six Americans faces hunger, according to the USDA.

"We make a distinction between food waste and wasted food," Rauch said. "Food waste should go to the trash. But it's wasted food that is a vast majority of what's being tossed. It's cosmetically blemished in some instances, but it's still perfectly good to eat."

Half of the store is devoted to produce and packaged goods, while the other half contains packaged meals freshly prepared by the store's kitchen staff.

Daily Table has a number of food suppliers, including produce markets and major grocery chains.

"We go around and collect excess food from produce markets and other retailers, and we also blend that with product we have been buying offered at discounted prices because we are nonprofit," Rauch said.

Rauch said he is already looking at sites for a second location in Boston and considering expanding to other cities.

He said the store's first couple days open were "overwhelmingly positive" and customers' average ticket price was higher than he was expecting.

But the concept has also been met with some criticism in the community.

Critics have called it “inverse gentrification” and balked at the idea of selling potentially blemished food to the poor.

Rauch says much of the food in the store is unblemished, however, and none of it is past its expiration date.

However, he wouldn't rule out adding expired food to shelves in the future.

"I'm a fan of America taking a second look at expiration dates," he said. "We as a society need to wise up about what these codes really are. We are throwing out billions of pounds of food every year due to these 'best by' and 'sell by' codes that are completely unrelated to food safety."


Waste Not Former Trader Joe's Exec Wants to Turn Slightly-Past-Its-Prime Food Into New Retailing Concept

Dale Buss
Published 7 years ago. About a 3 minute read.

Food waste is a huge problem in America and globally, with up to 40 percent of perfectly good food being trashed in the US, according to a study by Harvard and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Yet there's a lack of nutritious food in US inner cities and elsewhere.

So the ex-president of Trader Joe's is trying to put supply and demand together to create a new form of food retailing. Doug Rauch plans to open a new market, the Daily Table, in Dorchester, Mass., early next year to sell "repurposed" food as is, in lightly processed form — like a fast-food restaurant.

"It's [an] idea about how to bring affordable nutrition to the underserved in our cities," he told NPR, using food that "is, to a large degree, either excess, overstocked [or otherwise] wholesome food that's thrown out by grocers . at the end of the day because of the sell-by dates. Or [it's from] growers that have product that's nutritionally sound, perfectly good, but cosmetically blemished or not quite up for prime time. [So we] bring this food down into a retail environment where it can become affordable nutrition."

Rauch and other food-retailing experts pointed out that one of the biggest culprits in generating food waste is "sell-by" dates that send the wrong signals to consumers and, therefore, are creating the wrong reactions by retailers. Even on produce and milk, the indicated freshness dates aren't when the product will expire and become non-consumable, but rather usually just show when their freshness has peaked. The idea behind the dates is to encourage purchase while there's still some shelf life left in the stuff.

"Most customers," Rauch told the radio network, "don't realize you can eat that."

There's also been a lot of attention lately to "food deserts" in central cities, such as the Dorchester suburb of Boston and Detroit, where there is little retailing of fresh produce and other types of the most nutritious fare. Rauch's hope is that his first store will be a success and spread across the nation.

Still, among the hurdles faced by the Daily Table will be consumers' notion that it is offering and serving food that wasn't good enough for someone else or is of fringe quality. "The food will be perceived as garbage that better-off people would never want to eat," said Barbara Haber, a food historian. "Americans have always preferred to decide for themselves what foods they will eat, and are resentful of reformers who think they know best, even when intentions are filled with good will and common sense."

Rauch may want to dial up New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg for advice on that.


A former Trader Joe's executive is leading a revolution in cheap groceries

The former president of Trader Joe’s has opened a new kind of grocery store with insanely low prices.

The nonprofit store, called Daily Table, keeps costs low by collecting and selling food that other grocery stores are planning to toss out, founder Doug Rauch tells Business Insider. The store opened Thursday in the Boston neighbourhood of Dorchester.

At Daily Table, one dozen eggs cost $US0.99, a pound of bananas is $US0.29, a meal of roasted chicken with rice and vegetables is $US1.49, and a 22-ounce container of kale-and-sausage soup is $US1.29.

After three decades of working in the grocery industry, Rauch launched Daily Table to better serve the working poor and reduce food waste.

Roughly 31% of food produces in the US every year goes uneaten, yet one in six Americans faces hunger, according to the USDA.

“We make a distinction between food waste and wasted food,” Rauch said. “Food waste should go to the trash. But it’s wasted food that is a vast majority of what’s being tossed. It’s cosmetically blemished in some instances, but it’s still perfectly good to eat.”

Half of the store is devoted to produce and packaged goods, while the other half contains packaged meals freshly prepared by the store’s kitchen staff.

Daily Table has a number of food suppliers, including produce markets and major grocery chains.

“We go around and collect excess food from produce markets and other retailers, and we also blend that with product we have been buying offered at discounted prices because we are nonprofit,” Rauch said.

Rauch said he is already looking at sites for a second location in Boston and considering expanding to other cities.

He said the store’s first couple days open were “overwhelmingly positive” and customers’ average ticket price was higher than he was expecting.

But the concept has also been met with some criticism in the community.

Critics have called it “inverse gentrification” and balked at the idea of selling potentially blemished food to the poor.

Rauch says much of the food in the store is unblemished, however, and none of it is past its expiration date.

However, he wouldn’t rule out adding expired food to shelves in the future.

“I’m a fan of America taking a second look at expiration dates,” he said. “We as a society need to wise up about what these codes really are. We are throwing out billions of pounds of food every year due to these ‘best by’ and ‘sell by’ codes that are completely unrelated to food safety.”


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Putting expired foods to healthy use

Doug Rauch hopes to use food that has passed its sell-by date to create healthy meals in Dorchester. Kayana Szymczak for the Boston Globe/Boston Globe

Doug Rauch, the former president of Trader Joe’s who made millions of dollars marketing cheap but chic groceries across America, plans to sell meals prepared with food that is edible but has passed its sell-by date to low-income consumers in Boston.

Rauch said he knows the concept may at first sound unpalatable, maybe even objectionable, but he’s convinced that his Urban Food Initiative has merit. The idea is to take food “waste” — perishables at, near, or past their expiration date that supermarkets throw out daily — and turn it into healthy meals priced like a McDonald’s Big Mac. Rauch compares the nonprofit’s mission to the work of Goodwill, which resells donated clothing at affordable prices.

Rauch, who is negotiating to open a 10,000-square-foot store in a building owned by the Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester, said the Urban Food Initiative emerged from his research into hunger while studying as a fellow at Harvard University’s Advanced Leadership Initiative from 2010 to 2012.

Although most people have access to enough food, he said, many inexpensive meals are unhealthy, contributing to obesity, diabetes, and other medical conditions that have reached epidemic proportions.

“The number-one leading problem is affordable nutrition,” said Rauch, who worked for 31 years at the California-based Trader Joe’s grocery chain until he retired in 2008. “For the 50 million Americans who are food insecure, their solution is not a full stomach. It’s a healthy meal.”

The store would sell takeout items such as soups, salads, stews, casseroles, and wraps that are low in fat and high in nutrients, according to Rauch. The space would also feature a teaching kitchen where people can learn to cook quick, healthy meals. In addition, the shop would sell packaged chopped vegetables and offer milk at or past its sell-by date for as low as $1 a gallon — a price that makes it competitive with soda.

Rauch is funding the project with his own money — he won’t say how much — and is in the process of receiving about $400,000 from various organizations, including the Boston Foundation and Blue Cross Blue Shield. He is also seeking to raise additional funds. So far, Rauch has a volunteer board of directors and is starting to hire for the store, which he expects will eventually employ 75 to 100 people.

The Dorchester site would serve as a test model for the Urban Food Initiative, which he wants to replicate across the country. Rauch said he selected Dorchester because it is one of several Boston neighborhoods underserved by grocery chains and has welcomed innovative food ideas such as community gardens and farmers markets.

The issue of food waste has attracted more attention following alarming estimates of global population growth and concerns about the ability to produce enough nutritional food. Rauch and others say one way to tackle the problem is to reclaim some of the roughly $47 billion worth of food that supermarkets throw out each year, much of it edible. That amounts to roughly 10 percent of the total food supply at the retail level, according to industry estimates.

Curbing waste in supermarkets is particularly important, said Gawain Kripke, policy director for the antipoverty organization Oxfam America. “This is the pinnacle of the food supply, where food already has a massive investment in it,” Kripke said. “Labor, energy, and transportation costs are all embedded in it, so being efficient at that level is critical. . . . Losing food when it’s ready to eat is a tragedy.”

But to succeed, the Urban Food Initiative will have to deal with what is likely to be a common reaction to the idea: It’s peddling unwanted food to poor people.

Jose Alvarez, who served as president of the Stop & Shop supermarket chain from 2006 through 2008 and is an Urban Food Initiative board member, said the organization does not want customers to think, “Hey, I’m going to be eating the rich man’s garbage.”

Alvarez said the organization needs to get out a simple and pointed message: “You could have bought this yesterday at Whole Foods or Stop & Shop for $2 and today you can get it at Doug’s store for a $1 or 50 cents and it’s perfectly fine.”

To do that, Rauch has started holding focus groups with Dorchester residents and meeting with community leaders.

Some people, like Kiki Carter, 33, a stylist at Ketta’s Hair Salon and self-described neighborhood entrepreneur, reject the concept, saying Dorchester does not need food other people consider undesirable.

“We don’t want it,” Carter said of the proposed store. “Why would we?”

But Ben Cressy, a neighborhood organizer in Codman Square, said he is open to the idea.

“I’m not sure if people would perceive it as an insult,” Cressy said. “If it’s surplus and it’s usable, I’d rather have it in the hands of people who can use it than see it go in the trash.”

Under Massachusetts law, merchants can sell “expired” food as long it is “wholesome” and still aesthetically pleasing, meaning the food smells and tastes good. Such items must be clearly marked and shelved separately from unexpired products. Currently, that accounts for a tiny fraction of supermarket sales, but that could soon change. New rules proposed by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection would ban commercial food waste from state landfills, requiring supermarkets and other institutions to find ways to divert organic waste elsewhere.

The culture of US supermarkets is a major obstacle to making better use of past-date food, according to Alvarez. Consumers have come to expect large displays of gorgeous fruits and vegetables, requiring grocers to stock far more produce than they can possibly sell.

One recent food waste study estimated that US supermarkets on average discard $2,300 worth of out-of-date food per store every day. Many pull items two or three days before their sell-by dates, according to a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit environmental group in New York. Sell-by dates are not set by law, but by manufacturers themselves, and are generally conservative.

“Every apple in the store has to be perfect, and that drives the entire supply chain,” said Alvarez, who works as a senior lecturer at the Harvard Business School and wrote a case study on Rauch’s project.

But when lettuce begins to wilt or bananas develop brown spots, there is no dependable way to quickly get the still-edible but not perfect food off the shelves and into the homes of those in need. The Greater Boston Food Bank, for example, relies largely on volunteers and the majority of its products are nonperishable items, such as canned goods, collected from distribution centers. The organization has increased its focus on produce, but it accounted for just 25 percent of the 41 million pounds of food distributed in the past year.

Transporting food to the Dorchester store daily will be expensive: Rauch estimated it will cost about $300,000 annually — or about 8 percent of projected sales.

The Urban Food Initiative is one of several ongoing efforts aimed at improving access to healthy food in Boston, including a campaign to build a new food co-op in Dorchester and a nonprofit cafe recently opened by Panera Bread in Boston where customers leave suggested donations instead of paying set prices.

“It’s an intriguing idea,” Catherine D’Amato, president of the Greater Boston Food Bank, said of the Urban Food Initiative. “And it’s interesting to see entrepreneurs who have traditionally worked in the profit side looking at the nonprofit side to create models for food sustainability.”

Leaders at Codman Square Health Center agreed to talk with Rauch about opening a store on their property because they consider it compatible with healthy-food initiatives they already run, according to the center’s Anthony Stankiewicz.

Doctors at Codman write “prescriptions” patients can use to buy fruits and vegetables at a local farmer’s market, and through a partnership with Healthworks, the health center operates a low-cost gym in its building at 450 Washington St., the same site where Rauch wants to open his store.

“We take a pretty holistic view of health, and Doug’s idea fits in with that,” Stankiewicz said. “We’re in a food desert here, without healthy options, and this is an opportunity to help address that issue.”

Gail Latimore, executive director of the Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corp., said the proposal could provide an option missing in the neighborhood: wholesome prepared meals, available to go. But she acknowledged there is “a little tension in some areas of the community” over the question of using food past its sell-by date.

“It made sense to me based on what I heard there’s a lot of interest now in getting total use of food,” Latimore said, “but we want the community to speak on this.”


RELATED ARTICLES

Some of the offerings will be fruits and vegetables just a few days off their sell-by dates, and some will be repurposed food that is cooked and served on hot trays, a concept many food retailers already follow.

Mr Rauch cites the massive amount of food waste in America as the inspiration for his initiative.

Indeed, a 2012 study found that nearly 40per cent of food produced each year is wasted - the equivalent of $165billion.

What's more, this waste is largely unnecessary since expiration dates are essentially arbitrary, according to a report published in September by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Harvard Law School.

Mr Rauch's (pictured) hope is to provide healthy meals to the working poor in America, who would otherwise opt for cheap junk food

The report found that 'sell-by', 'best-by' and 'use-by' dates are mostly unregulated and cause confusion when it comes to how edible a food is.

Due to this confusion, more than 90per cent of Americans prematurely throw out food because they are under the mistaken belief that these dates are indicators of food safety.

In reality, a sell-by date is more of a rough guideline. 'In the old days, you’d smell the milk it smelled good or smelled bad,' Mr Rauch told the New York Times in November.

'People worry about food-safety issues, and E coli or salmonella. [But] virtually all of the known food-related deaths in America have been caused by food that was in code,' he added.

Of course Mr Rauch has several obstacles to overcome, one of which is getting consumers to believe that expired food is perfectly edible, even while it may look different or damaged.

Still, Mr Rauch believes The Daily Bread will not only help reduce waste, but it could also be the first step towards solving some of America's other big problems: hunger and obesity.

And many food experts agree. 'It's not trash,' Dana Gunders, co-author of the NRDC report, said of expired groceries.

'That food's good, and I would eat it and I do eat it. To throw it away, particularly the more nutritious stuff, is a shame.'


"Expired" food is good for you: A supermarket exec's bold business gamble

By Lindsay Abrams
Published January 21, 2014 2:30AM (UTC)

(Gayvoronskaya_Yana via Shutterstock/Salon)

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The former president of Trader Joe’s thinks he can sell the food that other stores throw out.

At first glance, that sentence looks like it tells you everything you need to know: Like Jeff Bezos’ vision of delivery-by-drones, or Elon Musk’s proposed hyperloop, Doug Rauch’s new venture sounds at once promising and kind of out-there, and like it's possibly just a publicity stunt.

In interviews with NPR and the New York Times Magazine, Rauch laid out the basics: The Daily Table, due to open in May, will be part grocery store and part cafe, specializing in healthy, inexpensive food and catering to the underserved population in Dorchester, Mass. What makes it controversial – at least at first glance – is Rauch’s business model: His store will exclusively collect and sell food that had crept past its “sell-by” date, rendering it unsellable in other, more conventional supermarkets.

As it turns out, so-called expired food is something of an overlooked commodity. At some point along the chain of production, from when it’s grown to when it’s left on a consumer’s dinner plate, 40 percent of the food produced in the U.S. each year is wasted, and $165 billion goes in the trash.

Meanwhile, nearly 15 percent of U.S. households were food insecure in 2012, meaning there were times when they didn’t know where their next meal was coming from -- let alone whether it would be healthy and wholesome. The connection seems obvious: As Ashley Stanley, whose food recovery nonprofit transports supermarket excess to local Boston food banks, put it, “It’s the most solvable, preventable, unnecessary problem we’ve got.”

But the real challenge, in Rauch's vision, isn’t just getting that excess food to the people who need it. It’s convincing them that it’s worth eating.

The first thing he’ll need to do is get us to stop referring to his offerings as “expired” food -- a term that, Rauch told Salon, isn’t even accurate. There are plenty of reasons why food is deemed unfit to be sold -- whether because it’s past its “sell-by” date, slightly damaged or just a little strange-looking -- even though it’s still perfectly good to eat.

The difference, while mostly semantic, is important. Last September, a major report from the Natural Resources Defense Council and Harvard Law School squashed the long-standing myth surrounding “sell by,” “best by” and “use by” dates on food. It revealed how those dates, which are mostly unregulated and surprisingly arbitrary, tell the consumer next to nothing about how long a product will stay fresh. Yet 90 percent of Americans are under the mistaken impression that they do – and that they are inviolable – causing us to needlessly throw away food.

The problem, however, begins even before such food reaches people’s refrigerators: It’s against most supermarkets’ policies (including that of Trader Joe’s) to sell food once it’s aged past these mystical dates. Dana Gunders, who co-authored the NRDC report with Emily Leib, sees Rauch’s project as the logical next step in freeing us from the tyranny of date labels. “Just the fact that he’s doing it, I think is a huge proof point to indicate that what we’re calling ‘expired food’ is in fact still good to eat,” she told Salon.

Rauch isn’t the first to look at the vast storerooms of perfectly good produce, bound for the trash heap, and see an opportunity. Stanley’s organization, Lovin Spoonfuls, also serves the Boston area, and New York’s City Harvest, to take a prominent example, has been “recovering” surplus food from supermarkets and restaurants and redistributing it to food pantries and soup kitchens since 1982. And as Rauch himself pointed out, a number of high-end retailers already repurpose their unsellable produce as hot, prepared food.

But Rauch’s focus differs from that of other nonprofit organizations, which are mainly concerned with fixing the broken link between excess food and empty stomachs. For example: Stanley’s ultimate goal for Lovin Spoonfuls, she said, is to put herself out of business – in other words, to solve hunger. “We must never forget that food’s not only a commodity,” she told Salon more important is its role as a life force. But like it or not, our culture does treat food as a commodity – as something to be coveted and indulged in. Rauch sees that as an advantage.

Rauch, a capitalist first and foremost, is looking for a market-driven solution to food waste. The store is a nonprofit, but after an initial round of funding gets it started, he intends for it to be self-sustaining. And he expects that supermarkets will work with him, “not just because it’s the right thing, not just because they feel bad about throwing it out. All those are true, but also because it’s an underrealized asset”: There’s a federally enhanced tax deduction on the books for restaurants and grocery stores that donate their surplus, which allows them to recover up to 50 percent of their lost margin.

Rauch is also careful to specify that the Daily Table is a retail store, not a food bank or a soup kitchen. And his target clientele is the working poor -- people who can afford to buy food, but who aren’t buying the right food.

“When I run down to meetings in the inner city in Boston, I’d say most families know that their kids need to eat better,” he said. “Most families know that they’re not giving their kids the nutrition they need. But they just can’t afford it, they don’t have an option.” Rauch intends for his store to put healthy food on the same level as fast food by making it available at the same price. Only then, he said, will the approximately 47 million food insecure Americans have the opportunity to make “an economically agnostic decision” between junk food and healthy food.

A common criticism of food recovery services is that they’re giving poor people rich people’s garbage in Rauch’s case, he’s been accused of trying to sell it to them. Rauch doesn’t have any delusions about what he’s marketing, though: The best that he, with a fair amount of tongue-twisting, could come up with to describe the Daily Table’s ware was to call it “cosmetically imperfect but nutritionally sound product that’s acceptable, but not exceptional.” Just because food is good to eat doesn’t mean that people will want to eat it – that’s the reason why it ends up as surplus in the first place. And it gives some credence to his critics. “If you’re a customer walking into the store and you’re willing to buy that crooked carrot or the apple with a slight mark on it, I’m sure they’d be happy to sell it to you,” Rauch said. “But if there’s a beautiful apple sitting next to it, I think that you, just like me and everyone else, will take that.”

That’s hard to argue with, but it’s also hard to argue that a crooked carrot or bruised apple is inferior to a “beautiful” piece of produce when it comes down to what matters most: its nutritional value. The real “garbage,” Rauch would argue, is the cheap-packaged and fast food that people in food deserts like Dorchester are eating instead of fresh produce. Equating excess food with garbage, Gunders added, goes back to that basic misunderstanding about what does and does not count as expired. “It’s not trash,” she said. “That food’s good, and I would eat it and I do eat it. To throw it away, particularly the more nutritious stuff, is a shame.”

The key to making the Daily Table a place where people will actually want to shop will be in finding a way to make that food appealing again, and not just for sentimental reasons. Chopping up that crooked carrot and sneaking it into a minestrone, or pureeing it into a smoothie, to be sold at the store’s prepared foods sections, will help. So may cultivating a different aesthetic from the typical supermarket: The food stocked in the store’s produce section won’t be “ugly,” it will be “authentic.” This, Rauch pointed out, is something that farmer’s markets have already been successful in doing.

“We have a broken food system, with rampant waste, hunger and obesity,” said Jonathan Bloom, whose book "American Wasteland" explores the various facets of food waste. “So we are well overdue for some new ideas.” If Rauch is successful, he will be using the first problem to help fix the other two. And along the way, we might just begin to stop thinking about expired food as trash, and start seeing it as an opportunity.

Lindsay Abrams

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This New Venture Will Sell FOOD. It’s “Expired” When You Can’t Eat It Anymore.

I'm puzzled by the mixed reactions to the announced opening of discount "expired" food store concept The Daily Table, spearheaded by former Trader Joe's president Doug Rauch, and slated to open in Dorchester, Massachusetts this spring. Could consumers' fears of sell-by dates really cause them to abandon slightly older food completely? Is it gross? By now you've read the stats: Americans waste an estimated 35 million tons of food a year, or about 40% of the food we buy. That's over a hundred billion dollars that could feed every hungry person in America, but doesn't.

As someone with precisely zero fear of food that doesn't display something very clearly wrong, I'm excited to make good use of that which would only nourish the bacteria decomposing it. Here are five points in unabashed favor of getting The Daily Table open ASAP, all over the place.

1. "This ____ expired two days ago" is significantly more of a First World problem than your scent coordinator and clutter specialist having clashing philosophies. You need food to have First World problems. One in four Americans doesn't (and the next round of SNAP cuts will make it worse), so I declare a moratorium on the First World Problem meme until we have better control over our food supply. In the meantime, nothing expired two days ago. Your eggs, cheese, milk, grains, canned, frozen, bottled, bagged stuff, it's all fine. Cook meat and fish the day you get it or the day after.

2. Along those lines: sell-by dates are suggestions, not commandments, and they're certainly not expiration dates. Look at the carton of eggs you bought recently. They're good for six weeks right? They're also good for seven weeks. Believe it or not, they're even good for 8. Apply that logic to other logical foods.

3. Leftovers are next to godliness. I know people with irrational fears of food that wasn't cooked the same day it was eaten. It's very hard to change their tune by convincing them their food isn't tainted. It's much easier to educate them (using a light touch, unless of course you travel with a fold-away podium) by earnestly mentioning that everyone's food waste contributes to everyone's food shortage. The less we buy &mdash and statistically we're buying 1.4 times what we need &mdash the faster the system will adjust to producing and selling the correct amount of food. Not like Hunger Games District 13 correct amount of food, just not so much that dozens of millions of tons return to whence it came.

4. Maybe this will actually work. Doug Rauch has a hunch but no proof that customers given the choice of guranateed safe but slightly older food and brand-new food will choose the former. "Well, we'll see, won't we?" says the former TJ's president. "I think that the issue here is how you talk about it."

5. What are you waiting for, anyway? Most of the world isn't on the "food shopping Sunday" schedule. They make trips to produce markets, butchers, fishmongers and bakers several times a week. Not only does this ensure their food is fresh and give purveyors an accurate idea of how much to stock, it instills a realistic sense of how long food actually lasts.

In summation, if it smells bad and/or is spawning new unrelated life, toss it. Otherwise, do the system a favor, join the clean plate club and check out The Daily Table, which could soon be revolutionizing a city near you.



Comments:

  1. Mahoyu

    the devil is burning !!!

  2. Haroun

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  3. Aler

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  4. Arnet

    I confirm. All above told the truth. Let's discuss this question.

  5. Kazrall

    Sorry, I would also like to express my opinion.

  6. Lee

    Yes, it is also ...



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