Doing the Most Good (DMG) Food Store Opens in Baltimore
First grocery store in the U.S. to combine social service with a traditional grocery shopping experience.
This is a ministry project “whose time has come,” states John Davis, Advisory Board chairman for the Army's Central Maryland Area Command. DMG Foods (named for The Salvation Army’s national brand, Doing The Most Good) is the brainchild of Major Gene Hogg—a vision sprouted from the tragedy and racial unrest in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray in 2015.
So called Mom & Pop corner grocery stores, as well as major chain supermarkets were closed in the aftermath, either from destruction, failure of recovery or even fear.
“Neighborhoods are left without means for anyone to get basic needs, like groceries and household supplies,” Major Gene explains. “People who do not normally feel good about themselves now have a place to go to purchase goods at reduced prices for their family with dignity. It’s going to improve lives—that’s why we’re here.”
The Salvation Army’s DMG Foods is a non-profit grocery store in northeast Baltimore, designed to provide healthy and affordable food for all members of the community. DMG Foods is the first grocery store in the nation to combine social service with a traditional grocery shopping experience. These social services include nutritional guidance, shopping education, workforce development, and meal planning. DMG Foods aims to expand the food availability for the community while also meeting the immediate needs of customers.
The major pitched his idea to the Army’s advisory board, and they immediately “got on board.” Presentations made to city government officials were also met with great enthusiasm.
In partnership with Maryland Food Bank, area wholesalers, and many local vendors willing to donate goods on a regular basis, DMG Foods is likely to become the prototype for similar replication across the country.
“We’ve been seeing interest online, and have already received inquiries from other Salvation Army units in the four USA territories,” Major Gene says.
The 7,000 square-foot store will also provide a five-week workforce development program for citizens seeking employment. After providing these individuals with training and hands-on food retail experience, a case manager will assist them with job placement in Baltimore City. Ultimately, DMG Foods will not only provide affordable groceries but will give these local residents an opportunity to develop new skills and gain work experience, which in turn will improve their financial welfare and instill a sense of pride and self-worth.
Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) is another partner with The Salvation Army intent on serving the needs of the public.
“More than just providing electricity and gas, we at BGE want to support in every way that we can,” says Alexander Nunez, representing his 3,200 fellow employees. “When business is open to innovation inspired by creative thought, anything is possible!”
Commissioner Willis Howell, USA Southern territorial commander, told the assembled onlookers, “Do you want to see a miracle? You’re standing in one right now! Do you wonder where blessings in the world are these days? You’re taking part in one right now!”
The commissioner likened this ministry project to the Lord feeding the 5,000 as recorded in the New Testament.
“Jesus turned the tables on His disciples and told them to feed the crowd. Like this neighborhood they were in a place far removed from food sources. What they came up with was a boy whose lunch consisted of a few fish and bread—but he was willing to share.”
The Honorable Catherine Pugh, Mayor of Baltimore, thanked The Salvation Army for being such a faithful and constant partner in the community. She also thanked many groups and individuals for their involvement in the successful completion of the project.
“The Salvation Army stepped outside of their comfort zone because they saw a need,” Mayor Pugh said. “All of you play an important role in how communities grow and how the city continues to move forward, becoming a beacon of light for the rest of the nation.”
Amy Klein, representing the Harry & Janette Weinberg Foundation, brought greetings from the president and trustees from the source of generous support for turning this vision into reality.
“I’ve been involved with this (all along) and been dreaming along with you,” Klein says. “The Salvation Army stepped forward to do this and they’ve done it right. Now, it depends on the community to help it succeed. Operating a grocery is nothing like anything the Army has ever done—or any nonprofit, for that matter! We’ve gone out on a limb, but we believe it’s worth the investment.”
Major Frank Duracher is assistant editor-in-chief, National Publications