Post by Serri Graslie, The Salt at NPR Food (12/12/13)
Somewhere between a food pantry and a traditional grocery store lays an opportunity to help feed those in need.
Enter so-called "social supermarkets," a European model that offers discounted food exclusively to those in poverty. The stores have grown in popularity across the continent and this week, the U.K. opened its first. Dubbed Community Shop, the store is located in an impoverished former mining town in South Yorkshire.
Part discount grocer, part social service agency, the supermarkets are for members only. Membership is free, but it is limited to those who can prove they receive some form of welfare benefits. Members can save up to 70 percent on food that has been rejected by grocers because it might be mislabeled, have damaged packaging or be nearing an expiration date. That food is still edible, though, so instead of getting thrown away, it's donated with a waiver of liability.
Christina Holweg is a professor who studies social supermarkets at the Vienna University of Economics and Business in Austria. Unlike food pantries, she says, the stores are designed for people who might have their own house and a job, but are still struggling to make ends meet.