A Healthcare Initiative Disguised as a Grocery Store

Doug Rauch
Daily Table in Dorchester, Mass.

By Doug Rauch
Founder and President of Daily Table

At Daily Table, we are on a mission to make the healthy choice the easy choice for residents in our community. As one of the first fully nonprofit grocery stores in the U.S., Daily Table is an experiment that uses one pressing challenge – wasted food – as a solution for another — hunger and malnutrition in low-income communities.

Our mission is to sell delicious, wholesome food at very affordable prices. Daily Table is designed to reach food-insecure individuals who struggle to eat well, many of whom also face health issues that stem from a poor diet.  Responding to the sad truth that nutrients are expensive and calories are cheap, Daily Table believes that the solution to hunger and obesity in America is not just a full stomach, but a healthy, affordable meal. In short, Daily Table is a healthcare initiative disguised as a grocery store.

We sell fresh produce and groceries, as well as prepared meals that are cooked onsite in a professional kitchen every day. We believe that the food we eat with our families plays a big role in our well-being, so we make sure that everything we offer has our customers’ health (and wallets) in mind. Every food item in the store meets strict nutritional guidelines for salt, sugar and fiber, and can be purchased with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funds. Because customers get to come in and choose what they want in a normal shopping environment, it increases the likelihood the food will be consumed. You choose it; you use it. And our customers have the power of the purse; we have to earn their patronage every day. This engenders a sense of self-worth and dignity often missing from charitable handouts.

Our unique sourcing strategy distinguishes Daily Table from the average neighborhood food market. Although one in six Americans is food-insecure, up to 40 percent of the food produced in this country is wasted: It is tilled back into the soil at farms, left in dumpsters behind supermarkets, and thrown into wastebaskets in our homes. Daily Table relies on manufacturers, growers and supermarkets to donate their perfectly edible, excess food as a primary source of our food supply. In this way, Daily Table can keep its prices so low that they are comparable to traditional fast-food alternatives in the neighborhood.

As a retail store, Daily Table’s flagship location is anchored in the Dorchester community outside of Boston. It has created about 30 new jobs, with 75 percent of the store’s retail and kitchen hires living within a two-mile radius of the store. The retail space is bright, clean, and inviting, and the store team treats customers with respect and warmth, creating a welcome and enjoyable shopping experience for all.

We all have a role to play in transforming our communities and changing our culture to one that doesn’t simply value health, but delivers tangible opportunities for our communities to live healthy lives.

Daily Table’s model simultaneously addresses food insecurity and health in a respectful, dignified manner for our customers. It also presents a unique, market-based solution to the problem of wasted food. We’re confident that this combination will help the communities where we open stores to build a Culture of Health, and give us a solid foundation to expand into other markets. After all, the need for affordable, delicious, convenient and wholesome food is everywhere.

Watch Doug Rauch’s TEDMED 2015 talk, “A dignified solution for wasted food”, here