Salvation Army, an international charitable organization, just opened their first non-profit grocery store last March 7 in Baltimore, Maryland. It is their first in a series of bold moves – DMG Foods is planned as a nonprofit grocery chain to combat so-called “food deserts” (disadvantaged neighborhoods that lack stores selling fresh produce and meats).
DMG stands for “doing the most good” – something the Salvation Army is focused and hopes will catch on quick. “If this works, Baltimore wants us to open two or three more stores,” said Major Gene Hogg, Salvation Army’s Central Maryland area commander.
Oasis in a Food Desert
The first ever DMG Foods location has a spacious, bright interior, making it almost no different from regular grocery stores. Essentially, the 7,000-square foot warehouse is an oasis in what is described as an area with a minimum household income of or below 185% of the federal poverty level – this means about 30% or so of households typically have no vehicle access.
In previous years, people had to travel about a quarter of a mile just to find a market or grocery store. DMG Foods is located right across the street from an elementary school. This makes it convenient for parents who want to pick up or drop off their kids, and then shop for meals on the same trip or drive. “The idea is to strengthen the family table,” affirmed Hogg. “We want to do more than just sell groceries.”
Baltimore’s Mayor Catherine Pugh, who was in attendance during the store’s opening ceremonies to cut the ribbon, expressed her gratitude and encouragement for the idea. “This serves as a beacon for the rest of this community,” she said. “If we can do this here, we can do this in other parts of the city.”
There are food samples, various recipe ideas, and even cooking demonstrations. Guest chefs and nutritionists from the city health department also visit from time to time. The store has an on-site butcher and deli, allowing people access to fresh meats. Maryland’s Food Bank also helps supply prepared meals and salads.
The store has a workforce development program to offer people interested in becoming employees. DMG Foods also has several special offers and discounts for people who belong to the federal food stamps program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
One of the best parts about DMG Foods is that proceeds are donated to a local facility – Catherine’s Cottage. This is also run by the Salvation Army, and offers support to victims and survivors of human trafficking.
“What we’re trying to do is create an environment where the community feels welcome and where they’re engaging for the betterment of their community,” said Hogg.
While Salvation Army is positive and hopeful the initiative goes well, they cannot make a statement yet as to DMG’s success just a few days after opening. They have however received calls from all over the world inquiring about the group’s amazing efforts, and it has made them optimistic about the future. They hope to eventually open other DMG stores not just in Maryland but in other food desert areas all over the country.
Contributing Writer: Imee Malabonga