The Salvation Army Is Opening Affordable Grocery Stores
Salvation Army grocery stores to open across the United States to provide lower income families with better access to healthy foods.
The first-ever national non-profit grocery chain, DMG Foods, has opened in northeast Baltimore at 400 E 29th St. Operated by the Salvation Army, DMG Foods is slated to bring healthy and affordable food to low-income residents in food deserts across the United States.
The non-profit’s first venture into the traditional grocery business in Baltimore, features a clean, 7,000-square-foot store that looks indistinguishable from a traditional chain grocery store. Shelves are stocked with both name brands and private label perishables and household items. The store also features fresh and frozen vegetables, a live butcher, a deli counter and a selection of prepared foods. The difference being, prices here are about 5% cheaper than competing grocery stores throughout the city.
Major Gene A. Hogg, the area commander of The Salvation Army of Central Maryland, noted that the impetus for DMG Foods grew after protests throughout Baltimore in April of 2015 left many local convenience stores in low-income neighborhoods looted or closed. “The Salvation Army distributed food baskets throughout the city,” said Hogg, “and soon found that it was not sustainable. This outreach made us question if people within the community had access to sufficient resources and how we could further support them. After many weeks of deliberation, we researched more efficient ways to support Baltimore City’s food initiative: thus, the concept of DMG Foods. We chose to open a grocery store, because we felt it was important that city residents had a broader food selection and more buying power.”
According to US Department of Agriculture, in 2014 the average Maryland resident receiving SNAP benefits receives $119.89 per person, per month—which is less than $4 a day. The goal of DMG Foods is to double the amount of food that clients can purchase with SNAP benefits. A second goal of the store is to also provide workforce development opportunities, in the form of a 5-week class that teaches retail soft skills and provides a hands-on grocery apprenticeship. At the end of the training program, a case manager will assist attendees with job placement opportunities.
DMG Foods also offers nutritional guidance, shopping education and meal planning. “The incentive is to promote the cost effectiveness of cooking at home. We want to encourage the community to prepare and eat meals with their families, instead of buying prepared foods,” said Hogg. Children younger than 12 years old who are shopping with their parents will also receive complimentary fruit.
The Salvation Army is using the Baltimore store as a test case, for eventual nationwide expansion. The organization has indicated that several US and international cities have already expressed interest in the program.
Images courtesy of Supermarket News