An Ethical Question: Recycled Expired Food for Sale to Poor

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September 30, 2013; PolicyMic


I know how I feel about the ethics of this proposal but what are your thoughts?

Doug Rauch, the former president of Trader Joe’s, has started a nonprofit to establish an unusual type of restaurant/grocery-store hybrid in the Codman Square neighborhood of Dorchester in Boston, Massachusetts. The store will take food that has passed its sell-by date, cook it or prepare it for “quick-scratch” meals, and sell it to people in the area, under the logic that it will both provide low-cost access to healthy food and reduce food waste.

(When I lived in Dorchester a number of years ago, the same thing was being done, but at the local full-price supermarket. Buying meat there was like taking your life in your hands. Organizing by nonprofits occurred to prevent such substandard stuff being sold in poor neighborhoods.)

National Public Radio interviewed Rauch on September 21st. You can listen that interview or read a transcript of it here.

Here are the demographics of Codman Square as of 2010.


And here are the household incomes in Dorchester, compared against Boston overall.


According to the Boston Globe, the Urban Food Initiative has already raised $600,000 for the effort. The community is asking about questions of community control of the board, but there is clearly a sense of uneasiness about the whole endeavor. NPQ is concerned about the ethics of the proposal, but we are anxious to hear about it from you about it, also.—Ruth McCambridge

  • Catherine

    Sell-by dates are not the same as safe-to-eat-by dates and in many cases the safe shelf life of the product extends far beyond the sell-by date. When I buy food on or near the sell-by date I am eating it after that date and I see no problem with it. For me, the ethical issue of throwing away perfectly good food is more concerning than any ethical issues that arise with making that food available at low prices to people who could use it.

  • lisa christie

    Last year I heard a program on NPR about the expired dates on food and most of them are for marketing pruposes only and have nothing to do with the quality of the it seems like this is not such a bad thing…