Farmers and ranchers help consumers stretch grocery dollars

Feb 22, 2013
by WLJ

During this time of economic squeeze is it possible to feed your family healthy, nutritious meals and still stay within your budget? The Utah Farm Bureau thinks so, and it joined with the American Farm Bureau and USDA in promoting Food Check-Out Week, which took place Feb. 17-23, 2013.

Farmers and ranchers throughout Utah reached out to consumers in their communities last week and offered tips on how consumers can stretch their grocery dollars with healthy, nutritious food. During the week, County Farm bureaus throughout Utah made a special effort to reach out to consumers, in-person or through social media, to answer questions about the food they grow or the livestock they raise.

Additionally, the Utah Farm Bureau State Women’s Committee recently donated $600 to the Ronald McDonald House in Salt Lake City, recognizing the need everyone has to find solutions to feeding families healthful foods on a tight budget. The Ronald McDonald House provides a “home-away-from-home” for families of seriously ill children receiving medical treatment. The money will be used to help feed families staying at the house.

Now in its 15th year, Food Check-Out Week also highlights America’s safe, abundant and affordable food supply, made possible largely by America’s productive farmers and ranchers. According to the most recent (2011) information from USDA’s Economic Research Service, American families and individuals spend, on average, about 10 percent of their disposable personal income for food.

Concern about the cost of a healthy diet being out of reach remains on the minds of many Americans as the nation continues to work through serious economic woes. However, according to a USDA study, the cost of eating healthy hasn’t changed as much as some less-healthy alternatives. Eating healthy food while on a budget does require strategic shopping.

“Fruits and vegetables— along with whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, fish, beans, eggs and nuts—are an important part of a healthy diet. Buying fresh produce when it’s in season and costs less, while buying frozen fruits and vegetables when they’re not in season, is a smart way to stretch that dollar,” says Marlene Israelsen, a registered dietitian and clinical assistant professor in the Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Sciences department at Utah State University.

Utah’s farmers and ranchers share a common concern with consumers when it comes to putting nutritious meals on the table while sticking to a tight budget.

“Learning to use your grocery dollars wisely helps ensure that nutrition isn’t neglected,” said Belva Parr, chair of the Utah Farm Bureau Women’s Committee. “America’s farmers and ranchers are committed to producing safe, healthy, and abundant food. And they share a common concern with consumers when it comes to putting nutritious meals on the table while sticking to a tight budget.”

The good news is that a recent USDA report favorably supports the economics of healthier eating. Recent food price data show that prices for unprepared, readily available fresh fruits and vegetables have remained stable relative to dessert and snack foods, such as chips, ice cream and soda. Therefore, as defined by foods in the study, the price of a “healthier” diet has not changed compared to an “unhealthy” diet.

Farm Bureau has developed Food Check-Out Week educational materials dedicated to helping consumers make healthier food purchases. Information on several topics, including “Tips for Better Nutrition on a Tight Budget,” “How Much Should I Eat?,” “Understanding Food Labels” and “Understanding What MyPlate Means,” is available at — WLJ