Specialty Food Magazine

SUMMER 2015

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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Here, Rauch shares his vision for the ambitious new business that strives to change the face of food security in America. How did you develop the idea for Daily Table? We struggle to utilize the food that we're producing. This isn't because people don't care. Growers, manufacturers, retailers— nobody feels good about food going to waste. But a lot is. I started getting mailings from Feeding America saying that one in six are hungry, and I wondered how on Earth could that be. If you want to solve a problem, you need to understand the real nature of it, and that's what I asked during my fellowship at Harvard. Because if you're not careful, you go out and answer the wrong question. It turns out that in America, hunger is very different than it is in much of the developing world. Hunger in America is not a short- age of calories, it's a shortage of nutrients. The solution is not a full stomach, it's a healthy meal. So how do we get 49 million hungry Americans to eat healthier? First problem is, we have a system designed to make produce, dairy, and proteins more expensive. That's not right or wrong, it's just the way it is. I knew I couldn't change the whole system. Instead I wondered, is there a solution that wouldn't require a single change to a law or change to the way that either corporations or people behave in order to tackle this? What I came up with was that 30 to 40 percent of what we're growing in America is not consumed; this excess healthy, wholesome food is just being wasted. Why not use that to help us fight for affordable nutrition? What I also discovered was that these 49 million Americans—the food insecure—primar- ily are the working poor. They're buying food, but because of their economic status they can't afford to buy the food that everyone says they should be eating. If we're going to try to change their eating pat- terns, we have to offer them a solution that doesn't require them to pay a nickel more for it. They don't have that little bit more. Why not create a program to give away the food for free rather than a retail store? When I was doing my research, [then] CEO of Feeding America Vicki Escerra opened my eyes to the fact that the No. 1 problem that the entire hunger relief and food system has is one of dignity. At that time, she said only 38 percent of the people in Illinois that qualified for [the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] or for services at a soup kitchen or pantry didn't come [because] of feeling ashamed. If we're going to do anything sustainable as a society, we have to do it in a manner in which these people don't feel any loss of dignity. I wanted to do something that builds self-respect. People feel a different relationship to a retailer than a govern- mental handout or food pantry. It builds dignity, makes them feel normalized, and allows them to provide for their families. When you're a shopper, you have the power. No one is going to force some- one to come into Daily Table. We have to earn your patronage every day just like any other business, even though we're a nonprofit. How does Daily Table work? We glean as much excess food as we can, bring it into a retail set- ting where we have a kitchen and commissary, and cook up fresh, grab-and-go meals that are priced at or less than fast food. It's not a restaurant. Customers are not meant to eat there. We want them to take this food and eat at home with their family because there's a lot of data that shows the best way to keep kids off drugs and out of gangs is to eat dinner together as a family. Two-thirds to three-quarters of our sales will be grab-and-go meals, simply because when you're economically challenged you also are challenged in time. One of the first things we learned by doing community focus groups was that it sounded great that the community would have a grocery with produce, dairy, and things to eat now and then, but it won't be a big help to them. That was a real eye-opener. They said, When I get off the bus at 6:30 and get home, my kids have been home from school for a couple of hours and are hungry. I better be walking through the front door with dinner or else I'm in trouble. So we changed the entire presentation from primarily a grocery with a little bit of prepared foods to the majority of our space being a large kitchen. What are your standards when it comes to the food the store will serve? We invited 11 agencies, from Harvard School of Public Health to Boston Medical Center, and nutritionists and dietitians to help us set our guidelines. All of these diverse organizations almost instantly came to an agreement. Public enemy No. 1: sugar. Next is sodium. We've agreed to a relatively strict set of guidelines. We have agreed not to carry orange juice. Why? It's almost all sugar, no fiber. These guidelines give our executive chef a big challenge because he has to cook up soups that are tasty and f lavorful but aren't high in "Hunger in America is not a shortage of calories, it's a shortage of nutrients. As soon as you fgure that out, it changes completely the efort you want to make. The solution is not a full stomach, it's a healthy meal. So how do we get 49 million hungry Americans to eat healthier?" SUMMER 2015 121

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