Dorchester's Daily Table Is More Than a Grocery Store
Healthy, affordable food and reduced waste are just two of the significant benefits to community at this blossoming market.
"Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food." Hippocrates was on to something when he said that. In order to work well, our bodies and minds need nutritious food. Not that eating should be merely a fueling function. Food should be enjoyed, too, and sometimes even satisfy a decadent craving – I see you, rice pudding!
But before thinking about treats, it’s essential to get the basics every day. That's where Daily Table comes in. Scotland Huber, Communication and Marketing manager for Codman Square Health Center, says they refer patients with nutritional needs to Daily Table, also located in the Codman Square section of Dorchester. While it is a grocery store, Daily Table is also a not-for-profit organization.
The store is membership-based, although it’s free to join and anyone can shop there. However, the focus is on people living in the community around Daily Table, and how to best serve them.
Two major goals of Daily Table are to provide access to healthy, affordable food, and to reduce wasted food. Daily Table was founded by the former president of Trader Joe’s, Doug Rauch, so he knows a thing or two about grocery stores. Daily Table opened on June 4, 2015, now just shy of its one-year anniversary.
Huber says, "They are doing a phenomenal job with the reheatable foods they offer and their fruits and vegetables. The community is responding extremely well to Daily Table." In the past, the health center had an initiative where a weekly "prescription" for $10.00 could be written for people to take to a Farmers Market. The "prescription" could be used to purchase healthy foods that they might not normally buy. Huber hopes that with grant funding, they can do something similar with Daily Table.
Leanne Bragdon, vice president of Dorchester’s Kit Clark Senior Services, says, "We have groups that walk to the store to shop and offer occasional bus trips so that seniors can access the discounted food items." Daily Table is "a wonderful resource," according to Bragdon. And the "healthy, affordable grab-and-go meal options" are a real plus for older adults served by Kit Clark.
Daily Table is able to offer a variety of foods by partnering with food suppliers that offer deep discounts, and also donate food. One of those suppliers is Food For Free. Executive Director Sasha Purpura says, "Doug Rauch and the Daily Table have not only created a wonderful market in the Codman Square area but have strengthened the overall food rescue and emergency food systems with their strong commitment to collaboration."
Her organization and its clients have benefited from the partnership with Daily Table, often getting food they typically don't have access to – like hummus and yogurt – when the store gets a particularly large delivery. Purpura says that in the summer, when collecting more produce than they can distribute, they make a weekly distribution to Daily Table, often delivering dozens of boxes of farm fresh vegetables.
Daily Table is readily putting all of that produce to good use. According to Rauch, "Almost 50 percent of our sales are items that we produce in our kitchen on site, so our prepared entrees and soups are some of our most popular items. We also sell lots of fresh produce like bananas, apples, and lettuce." Rauch also notes that every single product in the store meets the strict nutritional guidelines set by a nutrition task force utilizing Boston's world-class Med-Ed community.
Each week, the store carefully tracks what they’ve recovered in food that would have otherwise been wasted. Since opening last June, they've recovered over 600,000 pounds of fresh, nutritious food that they've used to provide delicious, convenient meals.
Food isn’t the only fresh product available. "One of the major flower suppliers here in Boston heard about Daily Table's mission and reached out to us to see if we'd be interested in offering flowers to the community," says Rauch. "We of course said 'Yes!' Twice a week, we pick up a number of varieties that we can offer at prices that our community can afford... and we love the idea of helping them bring beauty, as well as healthier foods, into their home."
Because Daily Table is a membership store, they know that over 88 percent of their customers come from economically challenged zip codes in the area. Daily Table’s average sale, referred to as "average basket size" by the industry, has risen over 65 percent since they opened, showing that they are becoming a larger portion of the community's daily diet.
"We currently have 49 million Americans that are food insecure," says Rauch. "And hunger in America today is often not a shortage of calories – obesity is the new face of hunger – but a shortage of nutrients. Food is a precious resource."
Daily Table is one attempt to craft an innovative response. They're hoping to expand their mission and are actively looking for another affordable site around the Boston area where there's an economically challenged community in need of affordable nutrition.
Daily Table – 450 Washington St., Dorchester, 617.506.0219, dailytable.org