Canadian Chef Launches World’s First Pay-What-You-Can Grocery Store
Jagger Gordon’s project aims to address both hunger and food waste
Grocery stores are a huge source of food waste. Between bruised produce, perishables that don’t make their way through the supply chain quickly enough, and plain old excess product, untold tons of perfectly fine food ends up uneaten.
But one enterprising Toronto chef may have just found a way around this unfortunate state of affairs, saving the planet and serving his community in the process. Chef Jagger Gordon just launched a pay-what-you-can supermarket, billed as the world’s first. At this market, bakery, and cafe, Gordon and his cohorts at nonprofit organization Feed It Forward salvage excess food, unsightly produce and other items destined for landfills, making them available to public for whatever they can spare.
With a sliding scale for items that starts at $0.00, the store makes healthy eating accessible to even the most food-insecure Torontonians, and the option to pay it forward for someone else’s purchases should spread the wealth around even further. The only rule is that families must limit their acquisitions to one day’s worth of food in order to ensure shelves stay relatively stocked. The store will run on a volunteer basis, making it something of a cross between a food bank and a co-op.
The concept didn’t just arise out of thin air. It’s the continuation of Gordon’s ongoing crusade against food waste, which started with the launch of his nonprofit Feed Families (later renamed Feed It Forward) in 2014. Starting with a freezer program that provided quality meals to deserving recipients, Gordon would go on to launch a pay-what-you-can restaurant in 2017, serving up soups, sandwiches and other creations made from aesthetically-unpleasant produce and other foods that markets discard without a second thought.
Gordon’s newest venture is a synthesis of those experiences, one that could down on the roughly $31 billion of food Canada throws away each year. “The concept behind the store is showcasing how Canadians can utilize the food that’s destined for landfills,” Gordon told The Star. “Perfectly edible food that shouldn’t be thrown out and can be filling the empty bellies of our citizens.”
Even though the pay-what-you-can grocery store is in its infancy, Gordon already has his sights set on a bigger target: changing Canadian law. He and Feed It Forward have launched a petition asking the Canadian government to ban grocery stores from throwing out edible food, requiring them to donate it to food banks or farms (where it can be used as feed or compost). Such a nationwide policy would certainly be unprecedented. But when it comes to improving the sustainability of our food cycle, the fact that something hasn’t been done before sure hasn’t seemed to stop Jagger Gordon yet.