Have you ever looked in your fridge and wondered who would eat that jar of pickles that have been in there for months? Have you ever pictured a grocery store with an entire shelf of those expired pickles? You probably threw the pickles out before ever considering the second question. Unfortunately, you also didn't realize that you alongside markets and farms are the reason why America wastes $90 billion of food each year while you were draining out the brine in the garbage disposal.
Doug Rauch, ex-president of Trader Joe's, is determined to resolve the food wasting problem by opening The Daily Table, a grocery store and restaurant in Dorchester, Mass. that offers inexpensive food pulled off from the shelves by regular grocery stores. This includes foods that are past their sell-by date (a label most people misinterpret as the expiration date) and edible products that came in damaged packaging. The market is expected to open by May this year.
"It's the idea about how to bring affordable nutrition to the underserved in our cities," Rauch said in an interview with National Public Radio. "It basically tries to utilize this 40 percent of this food that is wasted. This is, to a large degree, either excess, overstocked, wholesome food that's thrown out by grocers, etc. ... 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."
According to a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Harvard Law School's Food Law and Policy Clinic, people are prematurely throwing out their due to their confusion over what sell-by date and use-by date means.
Last year, New England Cable News had an interview with Dr Dori Zaleznik of the Massachusetts Department of Health and Human Services who helped clarify to viewers the differences between the sell-by date and use-by date.
"The sell-by date allows food retailers to have a time when they should remove from the shelf," Dr. Zaleznik explained. "The use-by date is a guide for people about when they should stop using the product and the use-by date is further out from the sell-by date. The expiration date is still further away."
"So common sense prevails here. If a food looks spoiled or smells bad, don't use it," Dr. Zaleznik added. "But we throw away a huge amount of perfectly good amount of food in this country because of the sell-by date, which people equate with expiration date."
Rauch aims to sell fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods for the same price as fast food to make it affordable for the working poor.
"This is about trying to tackle a very large social challenge we have that is going to create a health care tsunami in cost if we don't do something about it," Rauch said. "I don't regard Daily Table as the only solution - there are wonderful innovative ideas out there - but I certainly think it is part of and is an innovative approach to trying to find our way to a solution."