Sunday, April 24, 2016

Supporting efforts to provide affordable, healthy food

Almost exactly three years ago, I wrote about some efforts to get affordable food to people who might be in need.

One was The Daily Table, a nonprofit grocery store founded by Doug Rauch, the former president of Trader Joe's. The Daily Table buys excess groceries from other suppliers and passes on the savings to its customers who have a wide variety of groceries and prepared foods from which they can choose to buy.

Fresh fruit, prepared foods, packaged goods, and other items can be purchased at well below the typical price a full-scale, for-profit grocery store (or a Trader Joe's) might charge. The goal is to provide nutritious food that is affordable regardless of the customers' budget.

At the time, I wrote about these efforts that if the desire is to help those who are considered poor, but does so in a way that doesn't stigmatize them, but instead emboldens dignity with businesses that attract all segments of the economy, then they're doing the right thing.

The first Daily Table opened in Dorchester, Mass., in June 2015, with plans to expand to other locations in the Boston area and other cities around the country.

Now that The Daily Table is in full swing, a reader, C.C., asks if it's wrong for her, a well-paid professional to shop there. She and her family can afford to buy groceries at full-price stores, so she wonders if she should allow others more in need to take advantage of the great buys at the store. In other words, is it wrong for her to take advantage of an initiative that seems to have been started to help those less well-off economically than she is.

C.C. should shop at The Daily Table with a clear conscious. If the store has any hope of survival and competing against full-priced grocery stories, it is going to need the support of the entire community. As long as C.C. pays the asking price and is pleased with the groceries she buys -- which she says she is -- she is doing the right thing.

In fact, if The Daily Table begins to be viewed as a place that is only for "poor people," then the risk of it becoming stigmatized as somehow inferior to full-price groceries is greater. That C.C. and other customers sing the praises not only of The Daily Table's prices, but also the quality of its food and its services bodes well for the venture.

I live in Dorchester, two miles away from the first Daily Table location. Three years ago, I closed my column by writing that when the first Daily Table opened that I hoped to be among the first to shop there and that I hoped others of all levels of income followed. My wife, Nancy, who, as part of her therapy practice counsels families on how to eat healthy, beat me to it and came home a few months ago with several bags of wonderful produce and groceries, as well as reports of a great and helpful staff. She's returned several times since. I hope C.C. and others do the right thing and continue to shop there as well. 

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice, is a lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School. He is also the administrator of, a blog focused on ethical issues. 

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 



Azalea Annie said...

By all means, buy at The Daily Table.

One reason: The store should sell enough goods to pay for the food and to pay wages for the people who work there.

Another reason: Buying at the store helps to keep it open.

Third reason: You and/or others might volunteer to give cooking lessons. Yes, there are millions of people who don't cook. Some of them have never learned. Some have enough money to eat out all the time. Others grew up eating frozen dinners (some who had middle-class incomes, some who used food stamps).

A family friend grew up with parents who ran two restaurants, one a diner near downtown and the other an upscale restaurant in a rustic 100 year-plus-age building. He is semi-retired now, and recently began giving cooking lessons in his home. He charges $10 per session, about enough to cover the cost of the food. Young men and women flock to the sessions. They had no interest in cooking when they were growing up, and many of them say their mothers didn't cook. For my generation, learning to cook at your mother's elbow was the method! These twenty-somethings/thirty-somethings want to and need to learn to cook!

Wouldn't it great for good cooks to give brief cooking lessons on Saturdays to encourage healthy meals!

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