The Swedish food coop fills the needs of many. Food is brought in from retailers and placed on shelves, similar to regular supermarkets. The difference? Fruits and vegetables may have a blemish, and other products may be short dated. All that’s available at a minimum 30% discount from supermarkets, would have gone to waste. Now Sweden can feed their homeless and those suffering from energy inflation, which may be 75% of their budget.
Too bad, we can’t duplicate this idea in the United States. We can eliminate food deserts and give the poor access to good food in expensive and without stigma.
But fast-rising electricity bills and surging food price inflation are taking their toll here as elsewhere. “Sweden also has a poverty problem,” said Johan Rindevall. “We may not talk about it much, but it’s there – and it’s absolutely got worse this year.”
Rindevall is well-placed to know. The 39-year-old former tech industry worker runs Matmissionen, or Food Mission, a unique chain of social supermarkets in Sweden that has expanded rapidly since January, more than doubling its customer numbers as it offers means-tested members the chance to shop for food for less.
Matmissionen’s eight stores – five in Stockholm, three of which opened this year, two in Gothenberg and one in Malmö – sell food donated by producers and retailers that is at risk of being wasted, usually because it has cosmetic blemishes, damaged packaging or a short sell-by date.
The organisation’s aim is threefold: to limit food waste, train new workers – about 70% of staff are on various job market insertion programmes, and 40% go on to find full-time work – and, above all, to sell food at very low prices to people who need it. Revenue from the stores also helps subsidise a separate foodbank operation with some donations distributed to NGOs working with those in the most extreme need, mostly the homeless.