A 2018 Johns Hopkins study found that nearly a quarter of Baltimore’s residents live in “food deserts,” where poverty and lack of retailers make healthy food inaccessible.
When riots over the death of Freddie Gray, a black man fatally injured in police custody, shut down the city, Salvation Army area leader Gene Hogg helped deploy mobile kitchens. He noticed the lack of food suppliers in northeast Baltimore, and prayed. “God woke me up and said, ‘I want you to open a grocery store,'” Hogg says.
DMG Foods (“Doing the Most Good”), which opened in March 2018, operates out of a 7,000-square-foot former distribution center and is walking distance for more than 2,000 residents, 70% of whom don’t have access to private transportation. It runs on a “high volume, low profit” model, where healthy food is priced 5% lower than suggested retail. Hogg, a former Salvation Army beneficiary, wanted to “ensure dignity” for customers. Kiosks with recipes and coupons for healthy items also discreetly print extra vouchers for those receiving government assistance. It’s staffed by community members, provides free fresh fruit to kids, and launched a butcher training program in April 2019.
DMG gained 5,500 loyalty members its first year. Hogg expects it to be self-sustaining within five years.