The Atlantic: America’s growing income inequality has dominated the national conversation in recent months, accompanied by an avalanche of data: economists tell us the richest 1 percent of American households earn 20 percent of all income and own 40 percent of the nation’s wealth. But how do these figures translate into everyday life? For a glimpse into what has gone wrong, consider America’s food paradox: Grocery stores catering to wealthy shoppers discard billions of pounds of wholesome food because of minor cosmetic flaws while, in low-income neighborhoods across the country, 48 million Americans lack reliable access to affordable, nutritious food.
Doug Rauch, the former president of the Trader Joe’s Company, has first-hand knowledge about America’s food waste. He tells me that he has seen shocking quantities of food discarded because customers expect perfect fruit and vegetables on their supermarket shelves. “Grocery stores routinely trash produce for being the wrong shape or containing minor blemishes,” he tells me. After three decades in the grocery business, Rauch retired four years ago to devote himself to investigating and addressing the problem. The USDA estimates that 31 percent of food produced in America goes uneaten every year, amounting to a loss of $161.6 billion. “Here we are in the richest nation in the history of the world in terms of food production, yet one in six Americans is going hungry,” he says.
Rauch wants to take a stab at tackling this inefficiency in America’s food system. The solution seems obvious to him: Couldn’t we take the excesses of the wealthy and give them to the poor? This is precisely the concept behind Daily Table, a grocery store he is launching this fall in Roxbury, a low-income Boston suburb. Rauch plans to salvage food discarded by supermarkets and sell it at very low cost to consumers who would not otherwise have the means to adequately feed themselves. If this experiment works, he plans to open stores like it around the country. [Continue reading…]