NPR published an article yesterday about "Social Supermarkets" in Europe. I think it's brilliant.
Basically, it works to help people who are struggling, and on social programs, but not destitute. The store sells produce/food at around a 70% discount. How are they able to do this?
When regular grocery stores have items that are either mislabeled in packaging, or nearing their expiration date, it has traditionally gone into the garbage. There's a whole movement of people who sustain themselves by living off of that waste, but that's a different conversation.
When this food makes it to the social supermarket, it's heavily discounted. But they're able to get a much larger range of fresh produce and products that would normally be too expensive for people living on these means to afford.
Getting in to one of these stores requires an application, showing that you are on some sort of welfare program and in need of this service. Presumably to keep out those bargain hunters. (Coupon clippers, I'm looking at you!) But it's targeted towards people who are struggling to stay afloat with poor wages and stagnant economy.
So not only is this service preventing waste, a huge problem for the United States, but they're providing an amazing service to a unique class of people in need. Now, if you click on the link to NPR, you might see a certain someone all over the discussion dumping on how people who are impoverished should just take what they can get, "beggars can't be choosers". Ignore that guy.
This is a place where people can shop with dignity, buying healthier food, and even taking classes on resume building, cooking, and budgeting. And it normally would have gone to the garbage, so any profits from this are helping to sustain the program.
Now, the first thing I thought when I read this was "DUH", there have been people around for years who have hinted at similar programs. I hope that these programs are successful enough to warrant some serious attention on this side of the pond. I would love to see something like this over here.