As a tax-paying adult, anything that requires my money generally is “too expensive.” Gas. Cell phone plans. Taxes. Insurance. New minivans. Taxes. Our children’s future college education. (Shudder.)
Last week was my reminder that food should NOT be among them. It was Food Checkout Week – the week when an average family of four like mine earned enough money since Jan. 1 to pay for a year’s worth of food. We as Americans spend less of our disposable income on food than any other country in the world. And fewer than 2 percent of Americans produce it!
In other words, our food is the most affordable on earth in part because of the productivity of farmers and ranchers. That puts my grocery bill in perspective.
The Farm Bureau has touted food’s availability and affordability for 14 years, creating a calendar-marking Food Checkout Day to mimic Tax Freedom Day, the day when the average American has earned enough for the year to pay for taxes. (Which, by the way, is weeks away.)
I attended a Food Checkout celebration last week. Yeah, sounds corny. Actually Captain Cornelius was there! Anyway, two committees of our county Farm Bureau and the local Corn Growers association organized a live, broadcasted grocery race on Friday. Two morning show personalities from our local country radio station were the celebrity racers and teamed up with two listeners, who won a call-in contest to participate. The two teams had five minutes to buy up to 104 items on a specified grocery list, such as canned peaches, spaghetti sauce, ketchup, pretzels, crackers and V8 Splash. The list was formed with items that contained corn ingredients. The shoppers earned bonus points for items that included corn sweetener.
Besides putting food prices in perspective, our local farmers also wanted to bring some awareness to corn sweeteners, which have been given a bad rap by some food marketers. Unfortunately, the name high fructose corn syrup doesn’t sound pretty, but it’s really just corn sugar, is nutritionally equivalent to sugar and equally should be used in moderation. A local young farmwife baked some low-fat banana and oatmeal breads for the event using corn sweetener in place of granulated sugar and gave free samples. Yum!
At the checkout, everyone was a winner. The race was hilarious, with attempts to snatch items from one another’s cart, playful wrestling in the baking aisle, and asking nearby shoppers for directions to the gravy. Then, our local food pantry received the $215 worth of groceries collected during the race.