Would you buy expired or ugly food? That’s the question being posed by the former president of Trader Joe’s, Doug Rauch.
The food in his new store wouldn’t actually be expired, but instead would be food that is past its “sell-by” date, making it unusable for sale in traditional grocery stores.
His store, The Daily Table, is set to open in Dorchester, Massachusetts in May and will be part grocery store and part cafe. It will specialize in making healthy, inexpensive food available to those who might not otherwise have access.
“When I run down to meetings in the city in Boston,” Rauch told Salon. “I’d say most families know that their kids need to eat better. 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.”
In 2020, almost 15 percent of American households were food insecure. Knowing that and knowing that 40 percent of the food produced in the U.S. each year is wasted makes Rauch’s idea seem a little less out there.
The Daily Table will sell food that’s past its “sell-by” date, slightly damaged, or strange-looking; foods that would often be ignored in a traditional grocery store.
In response to critics saying he’s “giving poor people rich people’s garbage,” Rauch describes The Daily Table’s products as “cosmetically imperfect but nutritionally sound product that’s acceptable, but not exceptional.”
Farmer’s markets have seen success with selling less-than-perfect looking produce, so it’s not too hard to believe that The Daily Table could experience similar success.
Rauch agrees that changing people’s mindset about what makes food “good” will play an important role in how well his new store does.
“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,” he 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.”
We know that in most cases “sell-by” dates are arbitrary. We also know that a crooked carrot tastes just as good as a straight one, and can be used in the same ways. What will determine The Daily Table’s success is whether or not people can accept purchasing food that is not quite perfect. Do you think you could do it?