Tag Archives: diane hatz

Change Food – our new program

Apologies for not keeping the Guide to Good Food blog updated – we’ve been in transition for a few months and are proud to announce our new program – Change Food.  More info….

Change Food’s vision is to help shift the U.S. food supply to a regional, sustainable food system where healthy, nutritious food is accessible to all.

Change Food’s mission is to help individuals change the way they eat by raising public awareness and educating consumers about problems with the U.S. food system.  It highlights what can and is being done to dismantle the ill effects of industrial agriculture as well as promoting sustainable solutions so that all people have access to healthy, nutritious food.

Goals of the program are to:

  1. Develop and implement creative projects that raise awareness and educate individuals about various aspects of the sustainable food and farming movement, as well as highlight problems with industrial agriculture and promote possible solutions
  2. Inspire and invigorate the sustainable food movement
  3. Reach beyond the already converted to a broader audience

The first project of Change Food is TEDxManhattan “Changing the Way We Eat.”  Change Food is a sponsor to the annual event and works throughout the year to market videos of the talks, disseminate educational materials related to speakers’ subject matter and bring innovative ideas from the event to the widest possible audience.

Change Food is headed by founder and executive director Diane Hatz.  Hatz brings with her 15 years of experience in the food movement, including her previous positions as executive producer of The Meatrix movies, founder and director of Sustainable Table, founder of the Eat Well Guide, and co-founder and director of The Glynwood Institute for Sustainable Food and Farming.  She is currently the organizer and host of TEDxManhattan.

“Not only do we need to raise more public awareness about problems and solutions with the U.S. food system, we also need to find ways to support each other and promote the work so many experts are doing,” says Hatz.  “And that is why Change Food has been launched.”

The ChangeFood.org website is currently in development.  In the meantime, you can like the program on Facebook at www.facebook.com/changefood or follow Change Food through Twitter @changeourfood.

Know Your Food: Quick Tip

Fresh organic vegetablesThe entire Guide to Good Food series has been developed to help you get to know your food, but here’s an easy tip to help you when shopping. This will apply mainly to grocery stores, not to farmers’ markets where you’re buying your food direct.

As you look for fruits and vegetables, especially now at the end of summer when stores will be overflowing with farm produce, look for the labels found on the food. For small items like mushrooms or green beans, look for the numbered label on signage or the container they’re placed in. These numbers are PLU (price look-up) codes and are used on food that’s sold loose, by bunch, by weight or individually.

To know what kind of food you’re buying –

  • - A four-digit number means it’s conventionally grown. (Or possibly a five digit number if the first one is a 0.)
    - A five-digit number beginning with 8 means it’s genetically modified.
    - A five-digit number beginning with 9 means it’s organic.
  • What this means
    1. Conventionally grown – the produce was most likely grown on a large industrial farm that uses chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The food was most likely picked before it was ripe and shipped a long distance to get to the store. (The average conventionally-grown item travels 1500 miles to land on your dinner plate.) Farms such as these can contribute to ground and water pollution through chemical runoff.

    2. Genetically modifiedGenetically modified organisms (GMOs) are very controversial and are banned in many countries due to the lack of sufficient testing to determine their safety. A GMO is created by taking the traits, or genes, of one plant and inserting them into another. This is different than traditional cross breeding where two similar plants are combined to create a different variation of the food. The genes can come from completely different species – such as inserting flounder genes into a tomato – and not enough is known about the long-term ramifications of this gene manipulation on human health or the environment.

    3. Organic – The food was raised without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides (though some natural pesticides can be used), it cannot be treated with sewage sludge, and is not genetically engineered or irradiated. The fruits and vegetables can still be shipped long distances so finding a sign that says both local and organic is an even better option.

    Why this is good
    Do you ever go shopping for organic produce and wonder if it really is organic? Searching for the 9 on the PLU label on the food will help you know that your apple wasn’t accidentally tossed in from the conventional side.

    Also, if you’re on a budget and have to make choices, knowing which foods are genetically engineered and which are not may help you with your decision. Avoiding PLU codes that start with 8 means you are steering clear of GMOs.

    With everything we need to remember in order to buy the healthiest food for ourselves and our families, this is a quick and easy tip to know what’s conventional, what’s organic and what’s genetically engineered. If you want to learn more about PLU Codes, you can read their Users Guide.

    Thanks to Ideal Bite for getting this information out!

    (Diane Hatz is the Founder of Sustainable Table, Executive Producer of The Meatrix movies and co-Founder of the Eat Well Guide. This is the 21st installment in her series, Sustainable Table’s Guide to Good Food.)

    Eat Less Meat – and enjoy it!

    20_piefaceFor the past couple of weeks I’ve been encouraging you to eat less meat, preferably by cutting it out one day a week. You can also cut back on the amount you eat each day. Or you can go another way and not eat meat during the week. Do what is comfortable for you.

    Let’s say you’ve decided to cut out meat one day a week. Now what do you do? First, remember that this is enjoyable and fun. You’re not just improving your health or saving money or helping the environment, you also have the chance to experience delicious-tasting foods and to try exciting new recipes.

    It’s important to note that meat is a complete protein, meaning that it provides all the essential amino acids. You can find complete meatless proteins with soy or tempeh (fermented soy), rice and beans combined, and nuts. If you’re choosing to only cut out meat and not all animal protein, eggs and dairy are also complete proteins.

    What you don’t want is to be eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or frozen cheese pizzas as meals on your meatless days. So let’s assume you’re a carnivore and the thought of tofu or tempeh is a little too adventurous. What can you eat?

    Some ideas for recipes include:

    Beany Red Wine Chili – Recipe by Maria Comboy, Jefferson, LA, courtesy of MeatlessMonday.com. (Serve with rice for a complete protein.)

    Crockpot Mexican Chili – Recipe by Sylvia Sivley – Schenectady, NY, courtesy of MeatlessMonday.com. (Serve with rice for a complete protein.)

    Edgy Veggie Chili – Recipe by Ilene Courland – Valley Stream, NY, courtesy of MeatlessMonday.com. (Serve with rice for a complete protein.)

    Fresh Fettucini with Hedgehog or Shiitake Mushrooms and Ricotta – Recipe by Michael Natkin of Herbivoracious.com, courtesy of Sustainable Table®.

    Garbanzo Bean Burgers – Recipe by Healthy Monday, courtesy of Sustainable Table®.

    Goat Cheese and Veggie Pizza – Recipe by Denise Hughes, courtesy of Sustainable Table®.

    Grilled Pizza – Recipe by Laura Edwards-Orr, courtesy of Sustainable Table®.

    I Can’t Believe It’s Not Crab Cakes – Recipe by John Shields, Chef and Owner of Gertrude’s in Baltimore, Courtesy of Sustainable Table®. (I make these in the summer when there’s an overabundance of zucchini – they’re delicious!)

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    Eat Less Meat (part 2)

    Hudson Valley lettuceLast week we discussed how eating less meat can benefit our pocketbook and our health. This week we’ll look at how eating less meat can help curb climate change, save the environment and lessen our dependence on foreign oil.

    Curbs climate change
    In 2006, a United Nations study reported that the livestock industry contributed 18 percent to greenhouse-gas emissions – more than emissions from every single car, train and plane on the planet. Livestock production contributes 9 percent of carbon dioxide, 37 percent of methane and 65 percent of nitrous oxide. The total food system contributes 33 percent of the total climate change effect with 12 percent from methane and nitrous oxide emissions, 18 percent from deforestation and land use changes, and 1.5 to 2 percent from fertilizer production and distribution. Information on transportation, waste and manufacturing were unavailable.

    To sum up, emissions from factory farms – including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide – contribute a great deal to climate change, so when you cut back on the amount of meat you eat, you are also cutting back on the emissions that contribute to global warming.

    Want to learn more about the effect of meat production and agriculture on climate change? Check out Anna Lappe’s Take a Bite Out of Climate Change for more on the connection between global warming, the food on your plate, and the choices you make every day. And watch for Lappe’s book, Diet for a Hot Planet, to be released next spring.

    Wondering what all the hoopla is about climate change and why you should care? Check out the movie An Inconvenient Truth or Al Gore’s program The Climate Project.

    Helps save the environment
    Industrial meat production not only contributes to climate change but also pollutes our air, land and water. The huge amount of manure factory farms create cannot be absorbed by the land. The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that more than 335 million tons of manure is produced each year on U.S. farms. This waste sits in open air lagoons, emitting hundreds of kinds of gases, including hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, carbon dioxide and methane. The North Carolina hog industry alone produces 300 tons of ammonia per day.

    The manure is then often over applied to land or leaks from storage areas, polluting the land and water. One dairy farm with 2500 cows can produce as much waste as a city with around 411,000 people – and the manure does not have to be treated! In 2000, the Environmental Protection Agency identified agricultural activity as a source of pollution for 48 percent of stream and river water.

    Manure also contains high levels of disease-causing microorganisms, called pathogens, which can find their way into the soil and water. In every disease outbreak from water in the United States from 1986 to 1998 where the pathogen could be identified, the Centers for Disease Control concluded it most likely originated in livestock.

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    Eat Less Meat

    18-openrangeDoctors to rock stars to Nobel Peace Prize-winning UN panels and even nonprofit organizations are telling us to eat less meat. But why?

    To start, if we cut out red meat, fish and/or poultry one day a week without changing any other part of our diet, we would reduce animal protein consumption approximately 8.4 ounces a week, the daily amount the average U.S. citizen eats. That comes out to 27.3 pounds a year. Multiply that by the 304 million people in this country (as of July 2008) and collectively we would reduce our meat, fish and poultry consumption over 8 billion pounds!

    That’s a lot of meat and would have an enormous positive impact because reducing your meat consumption saves you money, is better for your health, curbs climate change, helps save the environment, and lessens our dependence on foreign oil. Really. All that from cutting back on the amount of meat you eat. To help even more, make sure the meat you do eat is from local sustainable farms.

    Let’s take a quick look at each of these reasons.

    Saves you money.
    Meat can be expensive, oftentimes the most expensive item in the grocery store, so it can take a big dent out of your weekly food budget. A good way around this is to simply cut back on the amount of meat you eat. The 8.4 ounces of red meat, poultry and fish Americans consume per day comes to almost 192 pounds per year.

    By cutting out meat just one day a week, you’ll be cutting out 27.3 pounds of meat per person each year. The amount of money you save will vary greatly between where you live and the type of meat, but if you buy ribeye steak on Long Island, NY, you’d pay around $7.99 a pound, so if you ate the 8.4 ounces an average American eats, you would save over $218 a year. Cutting back on a pound of meat a week would save you over $415.00 a year. And if you’re a family of four and you buy 2 ½ pounds of steak, that’s a savings of $20 per week or over $1000 a year!

    Better for your health
    Diets high in red meat like hamburgers and steaks and processed meats like cold cuts, bacon and hot dogs have been linked to an increased risk of death from heart disease and cancer. (The risk from fish and poultry is less.)

    The National Cancer Institute studied over 545,000 people from 50 to 71 years old and followed their eating habits for 10 years. There were more than 70,000 deaths during that time. The report, released in March of this year, states that middle aged to older Americans who ate only a quarter-pound hamburger (that’s 4 ounces) a day were 22 percent more likely to die from cancer and 27 percent more likely to die of heart disease, in comparison to individuals who ate only 5 ounces of meat a week. Women had a 20 percent higher risk of dying of cancer and a 50 percent higher risk of dying of heart disease than women who ate less.

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    Asking Questions – Part 2

    Fleishers MarketLast week we gave you tips for asking questions at farms and farmers’ markets so you can find the best food for you and your family. This week we continue with information you need to shop at stores and restaurants.

    Stores
    Because the vast majority of stores buy their food from distributors, they’ll be less likely to know as much about the food as the farmer does. But don’t let that stop you! Don’t forget that your questions are sending a message up the supply and distribution line. If we all start asking for something, we will greatly increase our chances of getting it.

    I often use my mother as an example when I’m speaking. She’s not an activist or a foodie, but she wants what she wants. She happens to know the owners of a dairy in Lewes, Delaware, which is very close to where she lives in Rehoboth Beach, and she loves their milk. She went into her usual grocery store and asked the manager if he would start selling some of their products. He said no. She went back a week later and asked again. He agreed to sell a couple of containers of milk, which quickly sold out. I was just down visiting and went to buy milk for my parents and saw that Lewes Dairy now has several shelves of milk on display in the milk section, and people were literally grabbing it up while I was there.

    When my mother told the dairy owners what she’d done, they said they’d been trying for years to get their milk sold locally. And it only took one customer asking two questions to change the milk supply in the Rehoboth Beach area.

    So if you have a favorite local sustainable food item that you don’t see in your grocery store, ask the manager to stock it. You could even go so far as to find a suitable farmer to supply the product to the store. A word of advice, though – if you are going to get a store to stock a particular item, please make sure you purchase it. Grocery stores work on slim profit margins and shelf space is limited, so make sure you really want what you’re asking them to stock.

    If you’re unsure about meat, poultry and dairy items sold in the store, download Sustainable Table’s Questions for a Store Manager, Meat Manager and/or Butcher (which includes answers also). It supplies questions like, “Do you know how the animals were raised?” You can also download Questions for a Farmer and see if the store is able to answer them.

    If the store manager or butcher doesn’t know the answers to your questions, ask them to ask the distributor. The same applies to vegetables – talk with the produce manager about where the fruits and vegetables come from. Ask if any are grown locally. I was pleasantly surprised when shopping in Decherd, Tennessee, last year. I asked the very young produce employee if any of the food was raised locally, and he went through the whole produce section and pointed out which was grown close by, which was from Tennessee, and which was from other nearby states like Georgia. If the employees at your store can’t answer these questions, just keep asking until they find out. You may be surprised, though, at the depth of knowledge store employees have these days.

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    Guide to Good Food – Summer Days

    food-inc_book-coverWith a long weekend approaching and (hopefully!) better weather around the country, people will be heading to the beach, mountains, and various vacation areas to relax and unwind. The Guide to Good Food will be taking a little break, but while we’re gone, take advantage of a new crop of books and movies now available. Happy summer!

    Books
    Deeply Rooted, Lisa Hamilton
    In this narrative nonfiction book, Hamilton tells three stories – of an African-American dairyman in Texas who plays David to the Goliath of agribusiness corporations; a tenth-generation rancher in New Mexico struggling to restore agriculture as a pillar of his community; and a modern pioneer family in North Dakota breeding new varieties of plants to face the future’s double threat of climate change and the patenting of life forms.

    Food Inc., Edited by Karl Weber
    Most of you have probably heard about Food, Inc., the movie, but did you also know there’s a companion book to the film? The book explores the challenges raised by the movie in fascinating depth through 13 essays, most of them written especially for this book, and many by experts featured in the film. Highlights include chapters by Michael Pollan (Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food), Anna Lappe (Hope’s Edge and Grub), Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation and film co-producer), Robert Kenner (film director), and a chapter on asking the right questions from Sustainable Table! The book is so popular it’s already in its fourth printing.

    Food Matters, Mark Bittman
    Food Matters explores the links among food, global warming and other environmental challenges, obesity and the so-called lifestyle diseases, and the overproduction and overconsumption of meat, simple carbohydrates, and junk food. Includes over 75 recipes.

    The Righteous Porkchop, Nicolette Hahn Niman
    Righteous Porkchop is a thoughtful, and surprisingly lighthearted, memoir about a most serious topic: poop…and the animals that make it. Porkchop guides readers through the ills of industrial farming, the faces and lives of the people most affected by it, a hopeful exploration of sustainable meat production and, surprisingly, a little romance.

    Movies
    Food, Inc., Robert Kenner
    Food, Inc., is the summer movie everyone’s talking about. The film has received fantastic reviews from all over and is currently playing in select cities. Food, Inc., reveals surprising, and often shocking, truths about what we eat, how it’s produced, and who we have become as a nation. Don’t miss this one!

    Fresh, Ana Sofia Joanes
    Fresh celebrates the farmers, thinkers and business people across America who are re-inventing our food system. Each has witnessed the transformation of agriculture into an industrial model, and confronted the consequences: food contamination, environmental pollution, depletion of natural resources and morbid obesity. Forging healthier, sustainable alternatives, they offer a practical vision for a future of our food and our planet. Fresh is not being shown in theatres – visit the site for information on how to attend a screening or host your own.

    Good Food, Mark Dworkin, Melissa Young
    An intimate look at the farmers, ranchers, and businesses that are creating a more sustainable food system in the Pacific Northwest. Copies are available for rent or purchase.

    The Meatrix, Louis Fox, Diane Hatz
    If you haven’t seen it yet, now’s the time to join Moopheus and the 20 million plus who have taken the red pill. This award-winning, four-minute animation uses humor and pop culture to explain what factory farming is. Online now!

    What’s on Your Plate?, Catherine Gund
    Filmed over the course of a year, the film follows two eleven-year-old African-American city kids as they explore their place in the food chain. With the camera as their companion, the girl guides talk to each other, food activists, farmers, new friends, storekeepers, their families, and the viewer, in their quest to understand what’s on all of our plates.

    (Diane Hatz is the Founder of Sustainable Table, Executive Producer of The Meatrix movies and co-Founder of the Eat Well Guide. This is the 15th installment in her series Sustainable Table’s Guide to Good Food.)

    Genetic Engineering

    fieldAs part of the Guide to Good Food series, I’ll be explaining different issues involved with both industrial and sustainable food and farming. Today we’re going to talk about genetic engineering.

    A gene is a small section of DNA in the nucleus of a cell that carries specific instructions which determine how a plant or animal grows, develops, looks and lives. Genetic engineering is the process of transferring specific traits, or genes, from one plant or animal to another. The resulting organism is called transgenic or a GMO (genetically modified organism). Seventy percent of processed foods on American grocery shelves have genetically modified ingredients.

    This process of transferring genes is different from traditional cross breeding, which can only be done with members of the same species (such as different breeds of cattle). Cross breeding has been done over the centuries to strengthen breeds by focusing on specific traits such as the ability to survive outdoors in cold or produce more offspring. It is done through mating or artificial insemination, not through gene manipulation.

    With genetic engineering, genes can be transferred not just across species but from one species to another – that is, among plants and animals that are unable to breed. For example, genes from an animal can be inserted into a plant, as when genes from a flounder were inserted into tomato plants to try to make them resistant to frost. In Taiwan, scientists have successfully inserted jellyfish genes into pigs to make them glow in the dark. (Who knows why.)

    There are many concerns about genetically engineered crops and animals, including the fact that inadequate testing has been done to determine the effects on humans and the environment.

    GE Crops
    According to the Economic Research Service at the USDA, in 2008 over 90 percent of soybeans, more than 55 percent of corn, and over 60 percent of cotton grown in the United States was from genetically engineered (GE) seeds. Most GE crops were created to withstand pesticide or herbicide application, allowing farmers to heavily spray their fields and kill pests, but not the GE plants.

    While those in favor of GE crops claim they require less pesticide use, weeds can develop resistance to the pesticides, leading farmers to spray more. This can lead to more pesticide residues on the food you eat. Increased pesticide use also increases profits for the biggest agribusinesses that sell not only GE seed but the pesticides used on them as well. It also increases water and air pollution as well as costs for the farmer.

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    Shop Sustainable – buying food

    veggies

    Today we’re going to show you that it is possible to eat healthier on a budget, and we’re also going to talk a bit about the reality behind our food system.

    I recently saw the movie Food, Inc. which opens today, June 12th, in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco (Click here for movie and ticket info). In the film is a scene where a family of four buys a fast food meal for $11.38 but say they can’t afford broccoli for $1.29 a pound. That’s understandable, but what could a family of four eat for around $11.38 that might be a little healthier? Let’s look at a chart we created with current prices from Stop and Shop’s Peapod website:

    Grocery Item Non-organic(1) Organic (2)
    Beans, canned 1.00/1 lb can 1.00/1 lb can
    Beans, dry black 1.50/pound 1.79/pound (3)
    Bell peppers .89/each 2.99/two-pack
    Broccoli 2.89/head 3.19/head
    Cabbage, green 2.19/head 2.49/head
    Carrots 1.79/2 lbs 3.49 5 lbs
    Celery 1.50/pound 2.99/pound
    Eggplant 1.49/each 2.99/10 oz pack
    Rice, brown 2.69/32 oz 3.19/32 oz
    Rice, white 1.99/32 oz 3.19/32 oz
    Romaine Lettuce 1.50/head 1.99/head
    Summer Squash/
    Zucchini
    .69/each 2.99/two-pack

    (1) Based on Stop and Shop’s Peapod website (accessed 5/29/09)
    (2) Based on Stop and Shop’s Peapod website (accessed 5/29/09)
    (3) Based on OrganicDirect.com (NY and NJ area) (accessed 6/2/09)

    The family of four could eat 2 pounds of conventional white rice and 2 pounds of black beans for $4.99, two foods that, when combined, meet our bodies’ need for high-quality protein. They could go organic and eat 2 pounds of organic brown (or white) rice and 2 pounds of organic black beans for $6.77. Add in a head of broccoli and the total is $7.88 for all conventional and $9.96 for all organic. Both well under the $11.38 the family spent at a fast food drive through, leaving extra money for herbs, spices, or another item.

    If you would like to see a comparison of farmers’ market and grocery store prices, check out “Is it possible to shop locally on a budget?” from Farm Aid.

    If you look at nutritional values –

    1 cup black beans (boiled with salt) – 172g, 227 calories, 1g fat (0g saturated), 0g cholesterol, 408mg sodium, 60% fiber, 15g protein, 20% iron and a good source of thiamin, magnesium, phosphorous, manganese and folate.

    1 cup brown rice (medium grain, cooked) – 195g, 218 calories, 2g fat (0g saturated), 0g cholesterol, 2mg sodium, 4g fiber, 5g protein, 6% iron.

    1 stalk broccoli (boiled*, without salt) – 280g, 98 calories, 1g fat (0g saturated), 115mg sodium, 0g cholesterol, 9g fiber, 7g protein, 87% vitamin A, 303% vitamin C, 11% calcium, 10% iron. Also a good source of thiamin, pantothenic acid, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, fiber, vitamin E and K, riboflavin, vitamin B6, folate, potassium and manganese. (*Steaming vegetables is preferable to boiling – more nutrients will be retained. We could only find data for boiled broccoli.)

    1 Burger King hamburger sandwich (as an example of a fast food burger) – 121g, 310 calories, 13g fat (5g saturated), 40mg cholesterol, 580mg sodium, 2g fiber, 17g protein, 2% vitamin A, 2% vitamin C, 8% calcium, 20% iron. (Note: Burger King supplied the information and most vitamin and mineral content was not provided.)

    To compare the quantity of food (172g beans plus 195g rice and 280g broccoli), you’d need over 5 Burger King hamburger sandwiches (at 121g each) to equal the volume of the beans, rice and broccoli. That means 1550+ calories, 65g fat (25g saturated), 200mg cholesterol, and so on, compared with 502 calories, 4g fat (0g saturated), 0g cholesterol, etc. (Or, conversely, you could reduce the amount of beans, rice and broccoli, to an equivalent of one or two hamburgers, which would bring the price of the healthy meal down considerably.)

    This shows that you can consume fewer and far more nutritious calories for less money by shopping and cooking, rather than resorting to fast food, so why do so many people continue to buy and eat fast food? One reason is convenience. We think food should be cheap and fast so pulling through a drive through and shoveling food quickly into our mouth is the way many of us eat. It’s a sign of our over-stressed, over-worked lives. And we’re used to it.

    How convenient is it?
    What if you cooked your own food, ate at home and took food with you from home to work? Clearly, you would save money and eat healthier food. But, I hear you saying, “I don’t have time” or “I’m always so tired when I get home that I don’t want to cook”. What can you do about that?

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    Shop Sustainable – spending money

    jams-annarbor1This week we’re going to look at the money we spend on food, particularly at the rising cost of products and how much we spend. In short, while food prices have gone up each year, the proportion of our income we spend on food has decreased. So, over the years, we’re spending less of our money on food even though prices are rising. What does that mean?

    Rising cost of food
    According to the USDA Economic Research Service, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all food increased 5.4 percent in 2007. Food-at-home prices (food bought in stores and other retailers to eat at home) increased 5.7 percent, while food-away-from-home prices (restaurants and other eating establishments) rose 4.1 percent in 2007. (In 2008, the CPI for food increased 5.5 percent – the largest increase since 1990; food-at-home rose 6.4 percent while food-away-from-home increased 4.4 percent.)

    In 2007, the following products increased in price:

    Butter up 31%
    Cheddar cheese up 65%
    Nonfat dry milk up 117%
    Broiler chickens up 17.5%
    Beef, select, up 12.8%
    Corn up 70%
    *Wheat up 60%

    Reasons for the increase in food prices include:

  • Ethanol. Corn prices rose 70 percent in 2007 due to demand for ethanol (a fuel made from corn). And because of the demand for corn, more was planted, meaning that less acreage was used for soybeans, wheat, oats and barley, so their prices increased between 5 and 35 percent

    World demand. As countries like China and India develop more of a middle class, demand for food increases, driving up the cost.

    Oil. As oil prices increase, the cost of producing and transporting food increases.

  • Other factors that contribute to rising food prices include poor harvests, bad weather and a weak U.S. dollar.

    (From Market Watch, * from U.S. News & World Report)

    This means that the food you regularly purchase costs more without you changing any purchasing or eating habits. For someone on a budget, this can have a big impact. The Financial Times reported in March that farmers will plant fewer acres of major crops in 2009 because of lower prices and higher costs for inputs like fertilizers, which will likely further increase food prices.

    Food Expenditures
    According to the USDA, in 2007 U.S. consumers spent 9.8 percent of their after tax income on food, a percent that has remained constant since 2005.

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