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Former Trader Joe's official pitches Codman food store, with a twist

Posted by Patrick Rosso  May 24, 2013 01:57 PM

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A new kind of food store, dubbed Daily Table, is being pitched for Codman Square, but it’s not clear if residents will bite.

Doug Rauch, the former president of Trader Joe’s, has proposed a new, innovative store for the Dorchester neighborhood that will take food from supermarkets that has passed its sell-by dates, cook it up, and sell it for pennies on the dollar.

Rauch, who laid out his plan Thursday night at the Great Hall in Codman Square, believes his proposal will fight a number of issues facing the community and greater city, including food waste, obesity, and access to nutritious food at a good price.

“Daily Table is trying to create an environment where you can get affordable nutrition,” Rauch explained to the crowd of 75 or so.

The idea has gained some traction and Rauch has raised some funds for the project, but not everyone in the community is sure how safe the food will be or whether it is marketable.

“How can we be confident and be sure the food and the market will be safe?” asked Nicola Williams, an area resident.

Rauch assured residents the food, most of which will be cooked in the store, will be as safe as the food found in the trays at Whole Foods.

“Most Americans don’t understand why a sale-by date is there,” explained Rauch. “It has nothing to do with quality.”

The food would come from area supermarkets that receive a tax write-off for their support. The food would be the excess the stores don’t sell or can’t charge full price for.

Rauch said the store, which is eying the 10,000 square-foot storefront at 450 Washington St. owned by the Codman Square Health Center, will also bring jobs and opportunities to the community including cooking classes.

“I believe one of the things retail can offer is life-skills,” said Rauch, highlighting the store’s plan to hire locally. “We want to keep the money in the community. This isn’t a business to make money; it’s a business to provide a service.”

Although the food would be cheap, the proposal is not. Rauch said the nonprofit, which has raised close to $600,000, still needs another couple hundred-thousand dollars to get off the ground.

But even if the money is raised and a store is opened, if the community doesn’t support it, it won’t stick around.

“We’ll have to earn patronage every day,” said Rauch. “This will have to be accepted by the community or it will fail.”

Residents also highlighted Codman Square’s diverse population and need for jobs in their converstaions with Rauch.

“I think it’s an interesting concept,” said Winston Cyrus, and area resident. “But what percentage of the board would come from the community?”

At the moment, the board is made up of just a few, including Bill Walczak, who help found the Codman Square Health Center.

Under the banner the Urban Food Initiative, Rauch said he wants to, pending the Dorchester proposal, expand the program to other neighborhoods, but expects the Codman Store to be managed by someone from the community.

The project still has a ways to go before any meals are served and from the questions asked Thursday, the biggest challenge the store seems to face is public perception.

“You’re obviously struggling with a PR issue,” said Mattapan City Councilor Charles Yancey. “But I have to tell you there is a certain uneasiness with the proposition, the last thing we want is anyone to buy things that can hurt them.”

Email Patrick D. Rosso, Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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