Ever since Amazon bought Whole Foods, the grocery games gold rush has begun. The online retailer is offering free 2-hour Whole Foods delivery to Prime members, while Sam's Club is offering free shipping across its inventory to members. Costco is launching its own delivery service and Target is still testing same-day delivery across the Southwest with Shipt. One thing that all of these offerings lack, that the Salvation Army hopes to fill, is that they don't expand to the food deserts across the United States.
A food desert is an urban area where it's difficult to buy affordable and quality fresh food. The USDA notes that food deserts are usually found in impoverished areas that have a lack of grocery stores, farmers' markets, and other healthy food providers. Affordability is key in determining a food desert, as well. The Salvation Army is responding to this problem with a chain of the first-ever nonprofit grocery stores. Here's an overview of food deserts in the United States, per the American Nutrition Association.
According to Grubstreet, the first DMG Foods location from the Salvation Army opened in Baltimore. The name of the nonprofit chain stems from the nonprofit's motto of Doing the Most Good. The Salvation Army is penning this as the first national nonprofit grocery chain, and their goal is simple: the help locals across the country eat cheaper, healthier, and smarter.
The Salvation Army first released news of the chain in 2016 when they announced the Maryland flagship. The 7,000-square-foot location is one of many to come and specifically serves the area of East Baltimore. As stated in the press release, "the goal of DMG Foods is to double the amount of food that clients can purchase with SNAP benefits." Those on the SNAP plan are able to purchase about $4 of food per person each day, and DMG is hoping to expand that to what traditional grocery shopping looks like.
Very first EVER Salvation Army grocery store opens today in Baltimore neighborhood of Abel. Construction has been underway for months. This will provide fresh, healthy food for a severely underserved community. #WJZ pic.twitter.com/N5rRgNEwCH
— Devin Bartolotta (@WJZDevin) March 7, 2018
The nonprofit grocery chain will also offer a 5-week workforce development program for citizens seeking employment, and they will be able to access retail experience and training. By uplifting the community and offering valuable experience in a job role, the Salvation Army hopes that the DMG Foods locations can foster positive community growth. These retail soft skills translate to an array of experience that is aligned with most customer service jobs.
The store features its own house brand called Best Yet, along with an array of national brands. The Baltimore DMG storefront has an on-site butcher, and premade meals and salads in partnership with the Maryland Food Bank. While the store is smaller than a typical grocery store, it will offer cooking demonstrations with nutritional guidance to promote the use of healthy food with its affordable produce.
Live tour of The Salvation Army of Central Maryland #DMGFoods. The Salvation Army’s first grocery store, where services include a workforce-development program, supplemental benefits, cooking demonstrations for customers and more. #DoingTheMostGood
Posted by The Salvation Army USA on Wednesday, March 7, 2018
For those that live in food deserts, meal planning and food availability are two very real concerns every time local residents need to go shopping. Affordable groceries are sometimes impossible to access, especially when dealing with the immediate needs of a family without a mode of transportation.
We've heard so much about grocery delivery programs lately, it's finally time we focus on low-income grocery stores and how we can help regions with no affordable food change that for the better.