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New Nonprofit Supermarket Fills Shelves With Surplus Stock

ARUN RATH, HOST:

Think about the way you shop for groceries. Would you buy food at a steep discount if it had a shorter shelf-life? It's a question being put to the test at a new store in Boston. It opened this week with shelves full of surplus and aging food. Curt Nickisch of member station WBUR talked to the first customers sniffing out the produce.

CURT NICKISCH, BYLINE: The nonprofit grocery stores in the low to middle-income neighborhood of Dorchester called The Daily Table is selling canned vegetables two for a dollar, one dozen eggs - 99 cents. Potatoes are 49 cents a pound.

NAOMI SOSA: That's good. It's cheap. Everything good.

NICKISCH: Naomi Sosa marvels at the prices that, for Boston, are phenomenally low. The reason - most of the stock is donated by food wholesalers and markets. It either didn't sell or it's surplus.

DOUG RAUCH: As you can see right here, we've got a pile of bananas at 29 cents a pound. They're Chiquita bananas; there's no little black spots on them. Those probably have another three or four days before you'd start to go oh, banana bread.

NICKISCH: That's Doug Rauch, the former president of supermarket chain Trader Joe's, who was frustrated by the amount of nutritious food that went into dumpsters just because it's nearing its sell-by date. Meanwhile, millions of people don't eat very well. But Rauch had to fight the critics who said he was just dumping food rejected by rich people on the poor.

RAUCH: It's been a long time coming.

NICKISCH: Checking out with a cashier, customer Manuel Gonzales (ph) admits he's surveyed the expiration dates before putting food in his basket.

EMANUEL GONZALES: I looked around, and I saw the date. I saw the food being prepared in the back. And I felt comfortable enough to come back and buy as much as I can. How much I owe you?

UNIDENTIFIED CASHIER: $30.46.

GONZALES: That's it? Wow.

NICKISCH: For just over $30, he walks out with what looks like enough groceries to feed his family for a week. Besides selling staples, Daily Table is also cooking up prepared meals on a rotating menu.

ISMAIL SAMAD: The recipes have to change every day because the donations change every day.

NICKISCH: Head kitchen chef Ismail Samad (ph) says even though the food is not as new as what's in your local supermarket, that doesn't mean it's bad.

SAMAD: The kale might be getting a little light green. We cut that off and saute it up.

NICKISCH: Samad hopes customers in Dorchester eat it up. If they do, founder Doug Rauch wants to expand this model to other cities across the country. For NPR News, I'm Curt Nickisch in Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.