When we have expired food in our home — canned goods, milk, yogurt and the like — we throw it away, fearful that the minute they are past due, harmful bacteria has inhabited their every surface. But in reality, these expiration dates are often bogus.
In fact, the government actually doesn’t require sell-by dates at all, reports WBUR, but they’ve become so ingrained in our society that we often trash perfectly edible food out of habit.
Doug Rauch, a former CEO of Trader Joe’s, wants to change that practice by rescuing expired food and using it to feed the needy.
Before you object, understand that it’s not as disgusting as you think. WBUR explains how expiration dates work:
Sell-by dates began as a method of inventory control for store managers, a way to stock grocery aisles more efficiently. But the dates have now morphed into a marketing tool with a harmful ripple effect. They cause producers to churn out more inventory, stores to waste more food, and motivate the rest of us to throw perfectly good food down the disposal.
Rauch’s program, called the Urban Food Initiative (UFI), would work with supermarkets and other food distributors to bring this past-due food to underserved communities in order to ease “obstacles to inner-city health and nutrition by providing fresh produce and other high-quality foods to the urban marketplace at a fraction of the typical prices.”
Considering that as a nation, we waste an alarming $100 billion of food per year, Rauch’s concept doesn’t actually sound that far off. At a recent Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic panel on food consumption and waste, Rauch likened UFI to TJ Maxx, which sell excess designer clothes at a fraction of the cost.
Rauch’s UFI reminds me of Ashley Stanley’s extremely successful food rescue concept Lovin’ Spoonfuls, which facilitates the rescue of perishable, prepared and unserved foods from restaurants and supermarkets and distributes them to shelters in the greater Boston area.
If her concept works, why shouldn’t Rauch’s?
“It’s so simple,” Stanley told BostInno last year. “There’s enough – let’s bring it to the folks who need it.”