Waste not, hunger not: Daily Table sells fresh meals cheap

Forty percent of the food produced in the U.S. ends up in landfills. Meanwhile, people are hungry. Daily Table tries to address both problems.

Every weekday a van pulls up at the back door of Daily Table, and chef Ismail Samad looks through donations from farmers’ markets, grocery stores, and manufacturers—food that would otherwise probably be wasted. He makes a careful selection and is soon at work transforming the food into carryout meals to sell at this nonprofit grocery store in Dorchester, Massachusetts.

The store was started in 2015 by Doug Rauch, formerly president of Trader Joe’s. Daily Table is an attempt to address two problems in American life: low-income people’s lack of access to healthy food and the massive amount of fresh food wasted by traditional grocery stores, growers, and manufacturers.

Daily Table is part of a nationwide movement for food recovery which is responding to the fact that 40 percent of the food produced in the United States ends up in the nation’s landfills, where it releases 16 percent of the United States’ total methane gas emissions—the equivalent of putting 33 million cars on the road. Food waste is the largest source of garbage, larger than either paper or plastic. In addition to the problem of food being dumped, there is waste involved in the process of containing and transporting all the food that goes unused. A Natural Resources Defense Council report from 2012 pointed out that getting food from the farm to people’s tables requires 10 percent of the United States’ total energy budget, 50 percent of land use, and 80 percent of fresh water use.