As the students approached the home of the fall semester, many were focused on completing final projects and preparing for the exam. During this time of year, some students may neglect their well-being so that they skip meals. To help relieve stress at the end of the semester and give students a delicious study break, the Food Security Action Team recently offered a group of freshmen the opportunity to join a food tour of the Daily Table, a new grocery store located in Cambridge’s Central Square.
Seventeen students along with staff from Student Financial Services, the Office of the First Year and the Office of Sustainability led the group from the stairs at 77 Massachusetts Avenue a few blocks down the street to the Daily Table in Central Square. As part of participating in the program, students were given a $ 25 TechCash gift card to shop for groceries during the trip. To make things even more fun, MIT staff created a recipe challenge to encourage students to work together to make their own variation of quesadillas.
Healthy, affordable, sustainable
At the Daily Table, students were greeted by Celia Grant, Director of Community Engagement and Programs at the Daily Table, who guided them through a tour of the room and highlighted the merchant’s history and model as well as some of its unique features. Founded by former Trader Joe’s President Doug Rauch in 2015, the Daily Table operates three retail stores in Dorchester, Roxbury and Central Square and a commissioner’s kitchen in the Boston metro area. Two more stores are on the way: one in Mattapan and another in Salem. For added convenience, the Daily Table also offers free grocery delivery within a two mile radius of its three locations.
The Daily Tables ethos is that delicious and healthy food must be accessible, accessible and affordable for everyone. To achieve these goals, the Daily Table offers a wide selection of fresh ingredients, nutritious groceries and made from scratch prepared grab-n-go food at affordable prices. “All of our products meet strict nutritional guidelines for sodium and sugar, so customers can make food choices based on their diet, not price,” says Grant.
In addition to a large network of farmers, producers and distributors who deliver food to their stores, the Daily Table often recycles and saves perfect food that would otherwise have been sent to landfills. Excess food, packaging and / or label changes and items with tight expiration dates are often discarded by major grocery stores in the supply chain. But the Daily Table is stepping in to break this cycle of waste and sell these products to customers at a much lower price.
The pandemic has revealed how difficult it can be for individuals and families to budget with necessities like utilities, rent and even food. The Daily Table seeks to create a more sustainable future by providing access to more well-balanced, nutritious food. “Even before the pandemic, it was challenging for low-income families to meet their families’ nutritional needs. After the pandemic, this challenge has now included even more households, including those who have never been challenged in this way before,” says Grant. through, and inflation rises, the need for more affordable food and nutrition will increase. The Daily Table is prepared to help meet those needs and more. ”
Food resources at MIT
Downstairs in the Daily Table Central Square store, MIT staffers discussed the components of a sustainable food system at MIT and beyond, shared advice on how to budget with food, and offered tips on how to make grocery shopping or cooking fun with classmates and comrades. “Shopping at the Daily Table provides an experiential case study in addressing multiple goals at once – from the environmental impacts of food waste to healthy eating at affordable prices – an important framework to consider when tackling climate challenges.” says Susy Jones, senior sustainability project manager at the MIT Office of Sustainability.
The group also discussed budgeting for expenses, including food. “By taking students to the grocery store and giving some small but meaningful tips, we gave them the opportunity to put their learning into practice!” says Erica Aguiar, associate director of financial education at Student Financial Services. “We saw students take a closer look at the prices and even get together to share groceries.”
MIT senior and DormCon Dining Chair Ashley Holton shared her purchasing strategies with the group and how she uses the resources available at MIT. “It’s really important to have a plan before you go into the grocery store,” Holton says. “It not only saves time, but it helps you avoid potentially getting more than your budget allows, while making sure you get all the food you need.”
This program, along with many others, is part of MIT’s greater efforts to promote a more food-safe and sustainable campus for all students. Food Security Action Team members, including students, staff and campus partners, strive to achieve this goal by ensuring that there is a well-organized and coordinated effort on food safety that can be implemented effectively each year. To make shopping at the Daily Table even easier, MIT, for example, has made it a priority to ensure the store accepts TechCash.
No MIT student should starve due to lack of money or resources, and no student should feel like they should be “really hungry” to ask for help. MIT offers several other resources to help students find the nutrition and other support they need. In addition, the Office of Student Wellbeing launched their DoingWell website, which offers programs and resources to help students prioritize their well-being by practicing healthy habits and getting support when they need it.
“In my own cost analysis comparison of groceries in all the local grocery stores, no other store is close to being able to offer what Daily Table does at the prices it does. It’s really remarkable to learn and experience how Daily Table is changing the food system, ” says Holton. “Its model is one of the many ways it will continue to promote a more food-safe society where everyone – including MIT students – can access affordable, nutritious food.”