BLOG: The Cost of Healthy Food

Is the relative cost of your grocery bill increasing over the past few decades? This interactive shopping cart will help you figure that out.

I'm a big fan of healthy food. Dinner normally revolves around fresh vegetables, rice, beans, squash, and greens. Not that I don't love a hot cinnamon roll or a hunk of good BBQ. Last week I was in The Smoky Mountains and had some amazing smoked ribs in a tiny Tennessee town. But normally my grocery shopping skips the middle of the store where the prepackaged food is and loads up on veggies.

I was sent an interesting infographic about the changes in the cost of food over the last three decades. NPR's Marketplace adjusted food prices per inflation, and then created this interactive "shopping cart." You have a budget of $35.46 and select the items that you want in your cart. You can see the price changes (adjusted for inflation) over the past 30 years, and how the cost of your basket fares in each decade. I know, it sounds like a bad Home Ec assignment, but it's extremely interesting.

Here's why:
Healthy choices (fruits and vegetables, whole grains) have gone up in price over the last 3 decades, while the cost of processed, less healthier choices have actually decreased.

Economies of scale (some things get cheaper as you do them in greater quantities) can explain why the processed foods have decreased in price, but what about the healthier options? Why does it now cost more than it did previously to eat healthy? We have seen the American farm grow in size; according to the US Census Bureau, 2.3 percent of all American farms account for 50 percent of agricultural sales. 

Are consumers now demanding more healthier choices so the cost is going up? Is this all about supply and demand or is there something else happening? In 1997 US obesity rates hung around 20 percent, now they are over 34 percent. One third of all Americans are obese, yet healthy food has increased in price!

I smell something fishy, and I can tell that it's not fresh.

Blogged from www.plantingcrows.blogspot.com.

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