Pay What You Can Grocery Stores: A Model To Reduce Food Scarcity & Excess
I remember reading about Feed It Forward, the world's first pay-what-you-can grocery store, earlier last year. Started by Canadian chef Jagger Gordon, this grocery store offers people the opportunity to receive fresh produce, canned goods, and other products that would have otherwise been thrown away by larger grocery distributors.
According to their website, Feed It Forward has:
• Served 79,300 people
• Diverted 1.3 million pounds of food from landfills
In a world where 1.3 billion pounds of food goes to waste every year and there are 37.2 million individuals who live in food insecure households in America, I have to ask, why aren't we doing this more?
A significant portion of the food waste picture comes from "imperfect" food — food that may have bumps or bruises or is past a "sell-by" date, but is still 100% fine to consume and eat. Most grocery stores throw this food out, although some may partner with local food banks to redistribute these goods.
But what if the grocery stores could serve as the redistribution points themselves? What if we gave people facing food insecurity the decency of being able to walk into any grocery store instead of having to go to a food bank or redistribution center? The time and energy saved is something worth considering.
Picture this: you walk into a grocery store and at the end of a section of produce, there's a place for fruits and vegetables that might have gotten overlooked. Or an end cap with dry goods that have a sell-by date that is close to expiring. A little sign says: "These groceries are here for our community and perfectly safe to eat, cook with and enjoy. Please take what you need and choose what you pay at the register!"
These are groceries with dignity. Food for the single parent who can afford some staples but needs to make this week's grocery budget stretch, or the person experiencing homelessness who gets to choose what they want to eat instead of being at the mercy of handouts.
In a world where we are producing more food than ever, yet food scarcity exists, we need to address the issue at the source. Grocery stores already go through food that they can no longer traditionally sell — why not create a space for that food to meet needs in the community?