Eating healthy while on a tight budget is within reach for most Americans, provided they are willing to invest some time in strategic shopping. During Farm Bureau's Food Check-Out Week, which was Feb. 19-25, farmer and rancher members focused on spreading the word about how consumers can stretch their grocery dollars with healthy, nutritious food.
Despite a recent uptick in retail food prices, the cost of eating healthy hasn't changed as much as some less-healthy alternatives. In fact, a recent Agriculture Department report favorably supports the economics of healthier eating. Food price data shows 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 cola. Therefore, as defined by foods in the study, the price of a "healthier" diet has not changed compared to an "unhealthy" diet.
America'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," according to Cindy Foster, chairperson for the South Dakota Farm Bureau Women's Leadership Team. Foster also says, "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."
As part of Food Check-Out Week, Clay County Farm Bureau donated $300 to the Vermillion Food Pantry. Additionally, County Farm Bureaus in South Dakota joined forces to donate over $2,000 worth of food to the Ronald McDonald House in Sioux Falls, recognizing the need everyone has to find solutions to feeding families healthful foods on a tight budget.
Now in its 14th 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 (2010) information from the USDA's Economic Research Service, American families and individuals spend, on average, less than ten percent of their disposable personal income for food.