Not Your Typical Supermarket
In March 2018, the anti-trafficking world was hit with important news pertaining to a groundbreaking effort to contribute to the fight to end modern day slavery. This effort just so happened to be the opening of a supermarket, albeit not your typical destination for grocery shopping. In fact, the 7,000-square food North-East Baltimore supermarket called DMG Foods was opened by the Salvation Army, with a double-faceted charitable mission.
To begin with, DMG Foods was framed as a possible solution to the quarter of Baltimore’s population which lacks adequate access to healthy nutrition. The area in which the supermarket is located qualifies as a “food desert,” that is a neighborhood missing stores which sell nutritious food. Finding low-cost produce is nearly impossible in these localities, explaining the prevalence of nutrition-induced health concerns amongst low-income American residents. This nonprofit market responds to the city’s problem of hunger and access to good food by providing affordable fresh meats and produce, while also offering nutrition guidance, meal planning, and job training.
The second mission of the Salvation Army supermarket is an aim is to help trafficking survivors. Salvation Army central Maryland commander, Maj. Gene Hogg, explains that if the market’s profits are made beyond expenses, proceeds will be directed to an emergency-shelter facility for trafficking survivors. He adds, “So not only are you just shopping and meeting your needs for your household, but in the end, you could be actually helping someone who could be rescued from human trafficking.” The low-barrier shelter, called Catherine’s Cottage is a local facility run by the Salvation Army, offers comprehensive services to trafficked women other than housing. These services include legal assistance, counseling, spiritual care and medical attention. The Salvation Army’s approach to supporting trafficking survivors involves helping them determine long-term housing and employment opportunities, beyond the emergency shelter situation.
“So not only are you just shopping and meeting your needs for your household, but in the end, you could be actually helping someone who could be rescued from human trafficking.”
Hogg explains that the intent behind the nonprofit supermarket initiative is “[…] to create an environment where the community feels welcomes and where they’re engaging for the betterment of their community.” The cooperation of an entire community in this effort is a reminder of the need for multilateral responses to trafficking.
DMG found its name through the Salvation Army’s motto, “Doing the Most Good.” The religious non-profit has been seeking this mission since 1865, serving in 128 countries across the world. In the United States, its initiatives are diverse and include disaster relief, poverty alleviation, shelter provision and education. The Army’s heart for the fight against human trafficking is also undeniable, through its awareness initiatives, rescue homes, support for criminal investigations and prosecutions and, finally, care management wherein the organization provides emergency and long-term support to trafficking survivors. Adding the provision of healthy groceries to the Salvation Army’s long list of charitable efforts is a nod to their mission. The idea of a non-profit supermarket which not only focuses on food security but also seeks to address modern-day slavery is a creative approach to aid worth encouraging. To our readers in the Baltimore area: take time to support DMG Foods and the Salvation Army’s incredible project. The success of this market has the potential to inspire the duplication of this kind of non-profit facility.
The idea of a non-profit supermarket which not only focuses on food security but also seeks to address modern-day slavery is a creative approach to aid worth encouraging.
Both the charitable mission and collaborative spirit of DMG Foods has been praised by local officials. In attendance at the store’s opening ceremony on March 7th was Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, who cut the ribbon to symbolize the commencement of the store and effort. She actively endorsed the Salvation Army's endeavor, stating to a local television station that “This serves as a beacon for the rest of this community. If we can do this here, we can do this in other parts of the city.” One might suggest that if DMG Foods continues to be supported by its community and proves to be a successful municipal project, the initiative may transcend the local realm and expand across the United States, and beyond.
We are all invited to contribute in some way to seeing the end of trafficking and violence in our lifetime. The exciting reality of the anti-trafficking movement is that it can be joined from different angles. Sometimes, our contribution as advocates will be outside the box. Today, let’s celebrate the way by which the Salvation Army creatively responded to the invitation to fight trafficking through their project, DMG Foods, which serves locally while being an advocate for human rights. After all, who would have known that grocery shopping can be a pathway to justice?!
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About the Author
Jess, a proud Montrealer, is an International Development major at McGill University, minoring in Communications and World Religions. You can find her reading a book in a coffee shop, planning a trip to a new city or laughing with her loved ones. Her passion for social justice issues has inspired her work in nonprofit organizations both at home and in the developing world.