(Update: In a statement sent to the Reporter this morning (Thurs., May 21), The Daily Table owner Dough Rauch has announced that they encountered a delay in their plans to open on Friday. "We regret that Daily Table is unable to open its doors on Friday as planned and we are canceling the ribbon cutting ceremony set for Friday May 22 at 10:30 a.m. It turns out we were misinformed in our estimation of time it would take to obtain a few final permits and prepare the food we want on our shelves for our customers on opening day. You only get one chance for a first impression with the customer and we want to make sure it's our best. Daily Table will be delivering on its mission very soon and we'll be back in touch!" -Ed.)
Daily Table, a nonprofit grocery store founded by former Trader Joe’s President Doug Rauch, opens this Friday (see editors note) Dorchester’s Codman Square, bringing healthy, affordable produce and prepared meals made from food that has passed its sell-by date to the neighborhood.
“Daily Table was born out of an attempt to provide affordable nutrition—that’s its primary and sole directive,” Rauch said.
The store will offer prices dramatically lower than an average supermarket by procuring surplus food that would otherwise go to waste from local markets and farms. It has collected up to 60,000 pounds of food already, according to Rauch, and will offer a selection of vegetarian, chicken and beef grab-n-go entrees ranging in price from $1.99 to $4, as well as fresh eggs and produce. The store will share space with Healthworks Community Fitness, and plans to partner with the nearby Codman Square Health Center on programs for improved diet and health.
Rauch said his idea for Daily Table came from his research fellowship at Harvard’s Advancement Leadership Initiative, where he studied hunger between 2010 and 2012. He said that food waste bothered him throughout his long career in the food industry. It was something he was determined to tackle upon retiring from Trader Joe’s in 2008.
“Food is a resource that we shouldn’t waste,” Rauch said. “We have so much invested in food production and it has such a carbon footprint that we need to be more thoughtful about its use.”
With Daily Table, Rauch not only wants to repurpose food that would be thrown out. He also wants to ensure that low-income residents have the option of choosing affordable, wholesome meals over cheap fast-food. It’s become a luxury for consumers to choose nutritious options, according to Rauch, and he hopes his store will help close the gap between affordable meals and healthy food.
“This is an intervention,” he said. “Our goal at Daily Table is to bring affordable meals to a community that’s really struggling.”
For Rauch, Dorchester was the perfect community for the store because of its ethnic and economic diversity and its openness to seeking innovative solutions to social challenges.
Bill Walczack, a board member at Daily Table who founded and ran the Codman Square Health Center until 2011, helped get the store off the ground. Walczak agreed that the Washington Street location was a “no brainer” in a neighborhood with multiple fast food options and limited access to a large grocery store.
“When you think about how much fast food is produced—which is not nutritious at all—we have an opportunity to provide really good nutritious food at a low cost,” said Walczak. “Codman Square offered Daily Table the opportunity to provide something that was missing in the neighborhood.”
But reaction to Daily Table has been mixed among Codman Square residents, according to Walczak. He said some community members aren’t thrilled about being served unwanted and seemingly outdated food.
“Some people love it, some people are troubled by it,” he said.
This reaction comes in part from a misunderstanding of sell-by dates, Rauch said. The dates listed on food are not regulated by the government and are often misleading, he said. And while Rauch acknowledged that residents were initially skeptical, he said many now seem excited about the prices and tasty options at Daily Table.
“The reaction in Dorchester has been deeply gratifying,” he said. “We hope to be part of and responsive to the needs of the community. We’re eager to open our arms to Dorchester.”