Americans waste almost 40 percent of their food, and almost all of it is because expiration dates are a combination of confusing and outright terrifying. Does anyone grasp the distinction between "sell by" and "enjoy by"? Who hasn't held a bag of arugula that expired the day before and thought, "Did this thing descend immediately to Hades, and will I die of botulism if I make a salad?"
But a lot of waste originates higher up the chain, with grocery stores tossing tons of product -- largely produce -- that is perfectly fine to eat but culturally un-sellable in a society that, with some justification, fears imperfection like nothing else. So a former president of Trader Joe's, Doug Raugh (rhymes with "how"), now wants to sell that expired food.
His concept, the Daily Table, would be a chain of hybrid grocery store-restaurants, cooking on-site and then selling nutritious grab-and-go meals. To keep costs down further and avoid picking fights with established supermarkets (probably including his former employer), the Daily Table would focus on items that aren't "brand-driven," and most locations would be sited in underserved urban communities. Low-income Dorchester, Mass., adjacent to Boston, will be home to the first store. Therefore the real competition likely isn't Trader Joe's, but Burger King.
"Food banks have done this for years," Rauch told NPR.
While keeping things at the proper temperature extends the shelf life of practically everything (although onions do quite well in pantyhose), this will require a sea change in American attitudes towards less-than-stunningly-gorgeous items -- as well as facing the dual headwinds of skepticism and ready-made punch lines about sloughing off past-the-date milk onto poor people. But it's a certainly a good thing to get Americans to eat more arugula.