Trader Joe's Ex-President Opens Store With Aging Food And Cheap Meals

Trader Joe's Ex-President Opens Store With Aging Food And Cheap Meals

3:04pm Jun 09, 2015
In the preparation kitchen, Marilyn Rush dispenses black beans into cups ready to be packed and sent out for retail.
In the preparation kitchen, Marilyn Rush dispenses black beans into cups ready to be packed and sent out for retail.
Jesse Costa / WBUR
  • In the preparation kitchen, Marilyn Rush dispenses black beans into cups ready to be packed and sent out for retail.

    In the preparation kitchen, Marilyn Rush dispenses black beans into cups ready to be packed and sent out for retail.

    Jesse Costa / WBUR

  • Noemi Sosa shops at Daily Table, a nonprofit supermarket in Dorchester, Mass.

    Noemi Sosa shops at Daily Table, a nonprofit supermarket in Dorchester, Mass.

    Jesse Costa / WBUR

  • Daily Table founder Doug Rauch greets Latoya Rush after she walks into the store.

    Daily Table founder Doug Rauch greets Latoya Rush after she walks into the store.

    Jesse Costa / WBUR

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.

"That's good. It's cheap! Everything good," says Noemi Sosa, a shopper marveling at the prices that — for Boston — are phenomenally low.

Daily Table founder Doug Rauch greets Latoya Rush after she walks into the store.

Daily Table founder Doug Rauch greets Latoya Rush after she walks into the store.

Jesse Costa/WBUR

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.

Grocery stores like Trader Joe's aren't donating any food to Daily Table yet, but the plan is to get food from them eventually, too.

It was Doug Rauch, the former president of Trader Joe's, who came up with this concept. He was frustrated by the amount of nutritious food that went into dumpsters, just because it was nearing its sell-by date. Meanwhile, millions of people don't eat very well. But Rauch had to fight the critics, who said he was just dumping food rejected by rich people on the poor.

Rauch first announced he would open the store in September 2013.

"It's been a long time coming," he says.

Checking out with the cashier, customer Manuel Goncalves admits he surveyed the expiration dates before putting food in his basket.

"I looked around, I saw the date. I saw the food being prepared in the back," he says. "And I felt comfortable to come back and buy as much as I can.

His groceries come to $30.46. "That's it? Wow!" he says.

In the preparation kitchen, Marilyn Rush dispenses black beans into cups ready to be packed and sent out for retail.

In the preparation kitchen, Marilyn Rush dispenses black beans into cups ready to be packed and sent out for retail.

Jesse Costa/WBUR

For just over $30, he walks out with what looks like enough groceries to feed his family for a week.

Besides selling staples, Daily Table is also cooking up prepared meals on a rotating menu. "The recipes have to change every day because the donations change every day," says head chef Ismail Samad. Even though the food is not as new as what's in your local supermarket, that doesn't mean it's bad, he says.

"The top of the kale might be getting a little light green. We cut that off and sauté it up," he says.

Samad hopes customers in Dorchester eat it up. If they do, Rauch wants to expand this model to other cities across the country.

Copyright 2015 WBUR. To see more, visit http://www.wbur.org.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Think about the way you shop for groceries. Would you buy food at a steep discount if it had a shorter shelf life? That's a question being put to the test at a new store in Boston. It opened today with shelves full of surplus and aging food. Curt Nickisch of member station WBUR talked with the first customers sniffing out the produce.

CURT NICKISCH, BYLINE: The nonprofit grocery store is in the low- to middle-income neighborhood of Dorchester called The Daily Table. It's selling canned vegetables two for a dollar, one dozen eggs - 99 cents. Potatoes are 49 cents a pound.

NOEMI SOSA: That's good. It's cheap - everything good.

NICKISCH: Noemi Sosa (ph) marvels at the prices that, for Boston, are phenomenally low. The reason - most of the stock is donated by food wholesalers and markets. It either didn't sell, or it's surplus.

DOUG RAUCH: As you can see right here, we got a pile of bananas at 29 cents a pound. They're Chiquita bananas. There's no little black spots on them. Those probably have another three or four days before you start to go banana bread.

NICKISCH: That's Doug Rauch, the former president of supermarket chain Trader Joe's, who was frustrated by the amount of nutritious food that went into dumpsters just because it's nearing its sell-by date. Meanwhile, millions of people don't eat very well, but Rauch had to fight the critics who said he was just dumping food rejected by rich people on the poor.

RAUCH: It's been a long time coming

NICKISCH: Checking out with the cashier, customer Manuel Goncalves (ph) admits he surveyed the expiration dates before putting food in his basket.

MANUEL GONCALVES: I looked around, and I saw the date. I saw the food, (inaudible) back, and I felt comfortable enough to come back and buy as much as I can. How much are we?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Thirty-forty-six.

GONCALVES: Oh, that's it? Wow.

NICKISCH: For just over $30, he walks out with what looks like enough groceries to feed his family for a week. Besides selling staples, Daily Table is also cooking up prepared meals on a rotating menu.

ISMAIL SAMAD: The recipes have to change every day because the donations change every day.

NICKISCH: Head kitchen chef Ismail Samad says even though the food is not as new as what's in your local supermarket, that doesn't mean it's bad.

SAMAD: The top of the kale might be getting a little light green. We cut that off and saute it up.

NICKISCH: Samad hopes customers in Dorchester eat it up. If they do, founder Doug Rauch wants to expand this model to other cities across the country. For NPR News, Curt Nickisch in Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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