The Salvation Army Fights Against Food Deserts With Grocery Retail

The Salvation Army Fights Against Food Deserts With Grocery Retail

The Salvation Army Fights Against Food Deserts With Grocery Retail 1440 428 Chute Gerdeman

A large portion of consumers today are lucky enough to live within close proximity to not one but maybe two or three large grocery chains spreading their spend throughout the week amongst them all. Unfortunately that’s not a true reality for everyone though. In fact, a large portion of the country still has limited access to affordable, healthy food options due to geographic location to the industry’s almost 40,000 grocery stores and supermarkets.

Almost 23.5 million people now live in these limited access food desert areas, and nearly half of them are also low-income, with almost 3% living more than 10 miles from a supermarket. And if it’s not a matter of distance, it’s about being disadvantaged in terms of being underserved. For example, in Washington, D.C., in the Ward 8 neighborhood, consisting of nearly 80,000 residents, they have only one supermarket to access. With limited options, many people living in these food deserts ultimately turn to fast-food restaurants given they have 2.5 times more exposure than communities in more established social-economic situations.

The Salvation Army Fights Back

In an effort to fight back against food deserts and hunger, The Salvation Army is actively getting into the grocery business with the launch of the US’ first-ever nonprofit grocery store. The 7,000-square-foot store appropriately named, DMG Foods, after the company’s motto “Doing the Most Good,” is located in an underserved and urban food desert community in Baltimore, Maryland. The site selection was not a difficult one for the company. In 2015 the nonprofit delivered more than 150 grocery bags daily to citizens affected by the protests, and while conditions have since subsided the effects were long lasting.

Butcher at The Salvation Army
Shopper at The Salvation Army grocery store

Helping to restore the community, the goal of the store is to bring together social services and traditional grocery shopping within one space. By providing healthy affordable food combined with nutritional guidance, shopping education, workforce development, and meal planning, residents will experience the likes of an environment competitive to some of the most well known national grocery brands.

Shoppers can enjoy fresh cut meat from an on-site butcher, shop premade meals and salads via a partnership with the Maryland Food Bank, and choose from house brand Best Yet products as well as other national brands. Activating the grocer’s “Red Shield Club” loyalty program, customers can register their rewards ID card via an in-store kiosk to receive access to coupons and recipes. Government assistance recipients will also be able to obtain complimentary food items once a month.

“The idea is to strengthen the family table. We want to do more than just sell groceries.” – Maj. Gene A. Hogg, the Salvation Army’s Central Maryland Area Commander

The unique social shopping model of providing access to food with information and education are powerful tools to create a better community future. If the initial test in Baltimore goes well, The Salvation Army plans to open stores in food desert areas all over the country.

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