Monday, June 9, 2008

Increasing Food Costs: A new model

News reports about the increasing costs of food are appearing daily. According to the USDA, the main factors behind higher food commodity costs include stronger global demand for food, increased U.S. agricultural exports resulting from stronger demand and a weaker dollar, weather-related production problems in some areas of the world, and increased use of some food commodities, such as corn, for bioenergy uses.

According to that same USDA report, eggs have increased in price by 30.5% compared to last year, bananas are up 20% (though still the cheapest fresh fruit by far IMHO), cereals and bakery products have risen 8.9%. Surprisingly meat prices have remained fairly steady, though the USDA credits that to a strong short term stock.

I'm pretty lucky in that I have a good job and little debt. I can afford the increasing cost of food for the most part. And besides, I like to cook, and the food that's increasing the most in price is prepared food because the producers are passing on the increases in food prices plus a surcharge.

That doesn't mean that all of us can afford the increasing costs. According to Second Harvest, visits to food banks around the US have increased 20% compared to last year. There are more than 1.3 million new registrants for food stamps compared to last year.

There are some new approaches to addressing hunger that I learned about on NPR's Weekend America. A few restaurants around the country are charging just what customers can afford to pay. That's right, you choose what to pay for the food you receive. If you can't afford to pay $5 for the cup of soup, put a dollar in the donation box. Yes, you could game the system. But most people don't.

A few examples are the So All May Eat Cafe in Denver, CO; One World Everybody Eats in Salt Lake City, UT; and Terrra Bite Cafe in Kirkland, WA.

I like the idea. It's not a straight up charity asking for donations to alleviate hunger. There's more of a relationship with the community, attracting people of all income levels. They come back for the tasty food, for the feeling, or just because it's there.

I haven't heard of anything like this around Boston.. though I certainly think there would be a market for it. If you want to volunteer or visit food banks, try the following:
And if you're lucky enough to have food on your plate, be thankful and appreciate it.

Related Posts: Food for Thought; Get on the Seoul Train; Water Water Everywhere; One little drip
Photos courtesy of me (Casey) and meals at my mom's house.


hannah said...

i totally heard about SAME on NPR the other day. such a cool concept... i wonder how it would do in boston? central square may be a good spot for something like that.

Casey said...

Central Square would be an AWESOME place for something like this. It's a mixing place for people of all income levels, and includes that do-gooder ethical help-out type (of which I am one of) who would embrace a concept like this...