Trader Joe's Ex-President's Innovative Approach to Food Waste
Saturday, September 28, 2013 at 12:00 AM | Naomi Stark
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If there is one thing New Yorkers think about more than real estate, it is food; and now Trader Joe's ex-President, Doug Rauch, is adding some more food for thought.

Throwing out perfectly yummy food is a sad, sad occurrence to behold, and it happens all the time. Ever work in the food industry? At the end of the day, it is the heartbreaking duty of closing employees to dispose of leftovers (and often, they are bounteous). This isn't just our opinion, dear readers, it is a fact that one-third of the world's food goes to waste every year. In the U.S., nearly 40% of our food gets thrown out either at the farm, grocery store, or in our own homes.

Herein lies the tricky part of the equation: We don't want to waste food, ok, so what do we do with leftovers, then? This is a legitimate and ubiquitous question that many are currently working on solving—from auctioning off food that's past its prime to getting restaurants to track their waste—the problem has yet to be fully tackled.

This is where we get back to Doug Rauch: the man who is determined to repurpose food that is slightly past its sell-date, and ends up in the trash, despite its edible state. 

Rauch  is creating the Daily Table—a new market opening early next year in Dorchester, MA. that sells prepared and repackaged food at significantly discounted prices. 

In an interview with NPR, Rauch explains his motivation. "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. 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." 

The Daily Table will be a hybrid between a grocery store and a restaurant because it's going to take healthy, edible food (otherwise to be thrown away) and prep and cook it for what he calls a "speed-scratch cooking". The most significant facet of this endeavor is that he will be offering these packaged meals at prices competing with fast food meals.

"It's the idea about how to bring affordable nutrition to the underserved in our cities. 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," explains Rauch. 

These meals will mainly consist of fruits and vegetables and other products not particularly brand-driven. "And [we'll be doing it] in areas that, frankly, are underserved," says Rauch, "there aren't Trader Joe's in the inner-cities in America, at least to my knowledge".

This sounds like a grape enterprise; we are excited to get on bread with you, Rauch. 

Tags: npr, Happenings, trader joes, fast food, healthy fast food, doug rauch, food waste, daily table, harvard, natural resources defense council