By Jillian O’Neil, Dietetic Intern at the University of Saint Joseph
Doug Rauch, an extraordinary innovator and former president at Trader Joes, was the keynote speaker from the opening session in Nashville at FNCE 2015. He inspired the audience by sharing his innovative ways to help our community in the fight against hunger. His presentation “implemented new strategies to create a culture of innovation in regards to hunger issues, developed a power brand in a competitive marketplace, and leads with a purpose in battling the hunger crisis.”
Wasting food: This concept is absolutely astonishing. One interesting picture, that he shared, stands strong in my mind. A picture taken after the harvest has already been picked – mounds of perfectly good, nutritious food thrown into a “waste” pile or left to rot in the ground. Think of lettuce in a store, it’s perfectly packaged into a little, plastic clamshell. It certainly didn’t grow that perfectly. Thus, the reminder of the plant or the ones that “didn’t fit the criteria” are completely wasted.
Throughout his presentation, he specifically wanted to clarify that we are referring to wasted food. Food waste comes from leftover foods, food scraps on your plate, etc. In opposition, wasted food is perfectly good food that might not be “up to standards” by the time it reaches the grocery store. Thus, the vendors bring their trucks directly to the store rather than letting them sit in a truck for an extra week before being delivered to the grocery stores.
Another major concern? Expiration dates. The truth is that expiration dates are not federally regulated except for infant formulas. The dates – “sell by, best by, use by, or enjoy by” – are not food safety foods. As long as the food is stored properly, then the date actually gives you a conservative amount of time to utilize it. They don’t expect you to consume the entire product on the same day as the “Sell by” date. Thus, our confusion is leading to billions of pounds of “perfectly healthy, delicious food being tossed out.”
With 1 in 6 Americans hungry, it is clear that excess healthy, wholesome foods being wasted is just not okay – that’s about 49 million hungry Americans – YET – the United States could throw out about 30-40% of food annually. Utilizing the research background, he wanted to offer those of lower economic status the food that everyone should be eating. Doug researched and created a food store concept that would “sell healthy, ready-to-eat meals at fast-food prices, along with a selection of produce and shelf-stable items.” Thus, the birth of a facility he helped create – one of America’s favorite grocery stores – called “Daily Table” in a historic neighborhood of Boston: Dorchester, Massachusetts
Well, how does it work? First, they formed focus groups allowing the community to provide import on produce, dairy and other things they would prefer to see. Then, they coordinated with suppliers to collect any sort of food – from canned beans to pasta to proteins. As for nutrition importance, they follow a strict added sugar and sodium standards. While trying their best to “feed the hungry,” they also agree to not feed in an improper nutrition form. They absolutely wouldn’t utilize bread with all white flour and extraordinary sodium levels. That wouldn’t help a family suffering from lack of proper nutrition. They invested in spices and oil to add flavor and nutrients for each dish. The Daily Table Nutrition Task Force that helped us set guidelines for salt, sugar, fat, fiber and other factors. The task force members come from the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston Public Health Commission, the Boston Medical Center’s Children’s Healthwatch, Children’s Hospital Boston’s Childhood Obesity Prevention Center, Codman Square Health Center, and the Boston Organization of Nutritionists and Dietitians of Color.
A few products sold on shelves as ready to eat options include: entrees, soups, stews, sandwiches. You can purchase milk and bread daily as well as a variety of vegetables – such as tomatoes, onions, potatoes, salad greens and fruits such as bananas and apples. A sample of product costs includes they following: 29c for 8oz of frozen okra, 39c for 8 ounces of frozen corn, 55c for a can of tuna, 70c for a box of cereal, and $1.19 for a dozen eggs. The concept really highlights bringing everyday necessities at an affordable cost for everyone – actually everyone. They don’t want to discriminate so anyone can shop here – wealthy or food insecure. Another key concept: tons of items are under or around $1. Aside from general produce, entrees will be prices starting at $1.79 and side dishes only 50c to $1. This concept allows competition between local fast-food companies – hoping to get kids off the street, staying in a healthy/loving community and also improve their current nutrition and health status.
So, who works for the healthiest grocery store in America? Not only has the company provided excellent food to the community, it has also allowed about 28 new full and part time jobs for the community members – such as cooks, drivers, general retail cooks and stocking shelves. 80% of the new hires are from within a 2 mile radius of the store.
In addition to low discounts, the store asks customers to give their phone number and zip code – allowing the company to validate that the predominant number of customers work or live in the area codes which are more economically challenged. The membership is completely free and the purchases are tracked based upon the phone number provided.
The future of Daily Table looks great! They would love to take the Boston concept and apply it to other major cities – such as New York, Detroit, LA or Chicago. They hope to fully tweak and figure out any concerns before opening a new location – in addition to adjusting each facility to the major concerns and needs of each community. How can you help? Formally, the Community Advisory Council allows businesses, health leaders, ambassadors and advisors to come together and work on improving any “tweaks” of the company. Donations to the Daily Table can be given by reaching out to their contact information listed on the company website or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
The Daily Table ~ 450 Washington Street ~ Dorchester, Massachusetts