Even when I don’t mean to, I keep coming across interesting stories about the dual fight against hunger and food waste. This week I wrote about the first “social supermarket” to open in the U.K. The stores are a European invention — part discount grocer, and part social service agency, they’re also kind to the environment because they keep food out of landfills.

The stores are stocked with “unsellable” (but perfectly edible) food a la Food Cowboy and grocery auctions. Access to the supermarkets is limited to those in need who can prove they receive some form of welfare benefits. In addition to being able to buy cheap food (so cheap the prices are symbolic), customers can take classes on everything from cooking to resume writing.

I talked at length with Christina Holweg, an Austrian professor who is one of the first academics to really look at the model. She volunteers at a social supermarket herself and that experience seems to have greatly informed her research.

She has never heard of a U.S. equivalent and I couldn’t think of one eitherĀ — food pantries and dented can stores are similar but don’t offer the same scope of services. And neither of them uses the membership model. Still, I could see a lot of potential for these stores stateside.

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