Episode 665: The Free Food Market : Planet Money A while back, the charity Feeding America was a mess. It was sending pickles to food banks that wanted produce, and potatoes to Idaho. So they called some economists, and a free food market was born.
NPR logo Episode 665: The Free Food Market

Episode 665: The Free Food Market

Christopher Futcher/Getty Images
A group of volunteers are working at a food bank and are sorting non perishable food items into boxes.
Christopher Futcher/Getty Images

When Susannah Morgan was running a food bank in Alaska, she always needed produce. Items like fresh oranges or potatoes. But her food bank didn't get much. Feeding America, a major supplier for food banks, assumed transporting fresh produce would be too expensive. Instead, among other things, Susannah's food bank got pickles. A lot of them. At the same time, Feeding America was flooding Idaho with potatoes.

A new CEO at Feeding America thought there had to be another way, and started holding focus groups with local food banks and economists. It was at one of those meetings that University of Chicago economist Canice Prendergast had an idea: Create a free market for food banks. A little economy built just for them. With its own money and everything.

On today's show: The bold experiment in capitalism that brought together an economist, hundreds of food bank directors from around the country, and, just to spice things up, a socialist.

Music: "Good Time" and "Party Swagger." Find us: Twitter/ Facebook.

Subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts, PocketCasts and NPR One.