Green Room

As Gas, Food, and Energy Costs Rise, Americans’ Diets Will Continue to Suffer

posted at 2:01 am on December 20, 2010 by

As Michelle Obama embraces her latest accomplishment, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010,  while Disney promotes her Let’s Move campaign, the reality of rising food and gasoline prices, as well as rising prices for propane and home heating oil  continue to plague Americans.  Gasoline prices at the beginning of the Obama presidency held steady at $1.81 per gallon, but have risen to over $3.00 on average as reported by the EIA in December 2010.  Food prices continue to climb as well with no end in sight:

Grocery prices grew by more than 1 1/2 times the overall rate of inflation this year, outpaced only by costs of transportation and medical care, according to numbers released Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Economists predict that this is only the beginning. Fueled by the higher costs of wheat, sugar, corn, soybeans and energy, shoppers could see as much as a 4 percent increase at the supermarket checkout next year.

[snip]

Since November 2009, meat, poultry, fish and eggs have surged 5.8 percent in price. Dairy and related products have gone up 3.8 percent; fats and oils, 3 percent; and sugar and sweets, 1.2 percent.

Throw in the frigid temperatures and rising energy costs for heat and you’ve got a nightmare of a trifecta.  Additionally, this report confirms a consumers’ worst fear–that costs will be passed onto them:

Stater Bros. has seen the prices it pays for cereal rise 5% in recent months. The chain has passed about half the increase on to consumers while making up for the rest by trimming other expenses, such as what it spends on cell phones and delivery truck tires.

Kraft Foods Inc., Sara Lee Corp. and General Mills Inc. already have said they’ll raise prices on certain items. Starbucks Corp. backtracked on an August announcement that it would hold coffee prices steady, saying in September it would boost prices of larger and hard-to-make drinks. This week, cereal maker Kellogg hinted that it will be raising prices, without disclosing specifics.

Grocery chains Safeway Inc. and Kroger have said they’ll pass supplier increases along to consumers.

While I agree that school lunches should be healthier and Mrs. Obama’s message to kids and parents regarding healthy nutritional choices and an active lifestyle is good, it’s a tall order.  It will be difficult for parents to meet her expectations as more money is siphoned off to pay for higher gas, food, and energy bills–ultimately causing consumers to look for alternative–and cheaper–food choices, leading them right back to fast food, cereals, and prepared foods.   It’s no secret that a  family of four can eat a complete meal for about $10 at McDonald’s.  Or, they can be more frugal and only spend $4.00 if sodium-saturated Tuna Helper or nitrate- and fat-laden hot dogs and mac-n-cheese are served up.  If you look at the huge profits these fast food chains rake in, you have to wonder how they do it.  How do they make a profit on $1.00 sandwiches?  Volume and wholesale bulk purchasing, we know, but what’s the quality of the meat if they are still making a profit when it’s priced at a buck?  After all, wagyu steak costs way more than a dollar.

Let me rephrase that point.  With the destructive Keynesian economic policies President Obama and the Democrats have forced upon the country, in addition to rising household costs, high unemployment, and a bleak unknown economic outlook for 2011, many families will have no option but to eat poor-quality foods, rather than high-quality, vitamin-rich, nutritious foods.  Ultimately, this will lead to an increase in obesity, poorer health, and higher health care costs.  Additionally, how are parents going to teach their children about healthy food choices if they cannot afford to buy them, or better yet, know how to cook?  Also, will they be willing to give up the convenience foods–it takes time to prepare a homemade meal.  Now parents become failures, which creates a perfect storm for the government to step in and “help.”

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I wonder how Obama could improve Kenya, or how the lack of DDT kills 1.5 million African children under the age of 5 each year. I wonder, what would electricity do for the world, that global warming won’t.

I bet a DDT factory and coal fired power plants would do more for improving human life than ole pumkin a@@ will do for school children in the USA. How dumb are liberals, well if you really want to know …

tarpon on December 20, 2010 at 10:47 AM

Can’t we just fill our bellies with hearty helpings of ‘Hope’ and ‘Change’?

Perhaps we can just ‘create or save’ our next meal?

catmman on December 20, 2010 at 11:11 AM

If you look at the huge profits these fast food chains rake in, you have to wonder how they do it. How do they make a profit on $1.00 sandwiches?

In the abstract, they do it the way all business do: They want that $1.00 worse than they want their hamburgers, and you want that hamburger worse than you want your $1.00. It’s called “wealth creation.” And when the cheaper and less healthy alternatives are stamped out, then who do we turn to?

gryphon202 on December 20, 2010 at 12:12 PM

And when the cheaper and less healthy alternatives are stamped out, then who do we turn to?

gryphon202 on December 20, 2010 at 12:12 PM

2 Hints:

1.) His first name is “Karl”.

2.) His last name is NOT “Rove”.

dmh0667 on December 20, 2010 at 1:49 PM

2.) His last name is NOT “Rove”.

dmh0667 on December 20, 2010 at 1:49 PM

Oh, I know! I know! It’s ‘Jr’!

sirnapsalot on December 20, 2010 at 5:03 PM

Not a very good post, Hiller. Setting aside all your horsehockey about it’s all Keynesian economics at fault, and it should be set aside, the gist of the article that you’re very selectively quoting is that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects only a 2 or 3% rise in the price of produce.
The less-healthy stuff on the supermarket shelve put there by the big food companies is what’s going to become more expensive. Less-processed and locally raised fruit and vegetables are going to remain steady, with a vey slight bump at

a pace that is not unusual in a rebounding economy.

People will continue to be able to eat, and parents will not be denied the ability to put a healthy meal on the table. … mostly it’s the less-healthy, processed foods that will be less affordable.

audiculous on December 20, 2010 at 7:04 PM

People will continue to be able to eat, and parents will not be denied the ability to put a healthy meal on the table. … mostly it’s the less-healthy, processed foods that will be less affordable.

audiculous on December 20, 2010 at 7:04 PM

And boy howdy will you hear people whine when ready-made ‘food’ starts really becoming unaffordable.

Cooking is almost as much of a dying art as reading. Every year I hear more stories of people who went into a blind panic when they had relatives over for a holiday meal, because the rest of the year they didn’t bother to make anything more complicated than toast.

It’s not possible for most of us to grow/raise our own food anymore, but people expect [email protected] near everything to be in a box and/or take five minutes to be ready.

Dark-Star on December 20, 2010 at 8:27 PM

To keep this in context, if you are spending more and more on gas, home utilities, and now groceries, how are families going to put quality foods on the table. I have a large family to feed, but I was also reared by parents who lived through the Great Depression who learned (and taught me) how to cook anything–from scratch. With that said, quality meats are priced much higher than last year averaging now about just under $5.00/lb for 93% lean ground beef. If you need to stretch the meal to feed more, you will drop down in the quality of the beef–say to 70% lean. Butter is twice as high at my local store as are eggs, milk, cheese and chicken. So, my point is correct. People (especially those who cannot cook) will turn to less healthy alternatives to make the budget work. I also brought in the Keynesian economics problem, because, frankly, it doesn’t work. If this administration would reverse its economic policies, the economy would turn around faster. Expanding the welfare state only helps politicians.

Finally, Audiculous did you miss the quoted part:

“Economists predict that this is only the beginning. Fueled by the higher costs of wheat, sugar, corn, soybeans and energy, shoppers could see as much as a 4 percent increase at the supermarket checkout next year.”
“Since November 2009, meat, poultry, fish and eggs have surged 5.8 percent in price. Dairy and related products have gone up 3.8 percent; fats and oils, 3 percent; and sugar and sweets, 1.2 percent.”

You cannot ignore these numbers and the reality affecting consumers at the grocery checkout and they will buy poorer quality foods just to put food on the table.

SusanAnne Hiller on December 20, 2010 at 8:49 PM

SusanAnne, if you’re paying $5/lb for 93% lean ground beef, you’re either a poor shopper or you live in an outrageously high-priced neighborhood and have very fine tastes and aren’t gonna be impoverished by a 3% rise.

The alternative to 93% lean isn’t 70% lean, SA, it’s 85%, which is less than $4/lb and not substantially different in nutritive value. (I also prefer the 93%, but the difference is mostly in taste.) 80%lean is about $3-3.50.

Again, SA, for foods, it’s processed, branded and advertised, and luxury items that have more price elasticity,and are going to account for most of the bump.

audiculous on December 20, 2010 at 9:34 PM

Audi–Hmmm…funny how you liberals always think that a wee 3% wouldn’t kill someone’s budget. And yes, there is an in-between grade at 85%, but where I live even that is $3.99/lb to $4.29/lb. Then it goes to 80% at $3.49/lb, then 70%. My personal tastes and where I live have nothing to do with anything as the numbers I quote speak for themselves and you can cherry pick all you want to make it fit your narrative. I, and many other Americans, however, are NOT better off than we were 2 years ago, frankly. I encourage you to reread the links and embrace the facts. Thanks for commenting.

SusanAnne Hiller on December 20, 2010 at 9:43 PM

Susan Anne, I’m not “you liberals” or even a single liberal.

And 3% WILL put a hurt on some families, but it’s not likely to ravage a family that’s currently buying $5/lb ground beef.

I’m not cherry-picking. I’m telling you that you’re overblowing this expected 3% AVERAGE increase in food prices. Again, it’s the processed food from the food manufacturers … and your post quotes KRAFT, SARA LEE, and STARBUCKS, for crying out loud, as being the folks who are going to be putting up the large increases for their processed foods.

When the price of 5 lbs of potatoes increases by 10 cents and cooking oil jumps 3%, the price of potato chips goes up 50 cents/lb and PRINGLES a little more than 50 cents/lb.

Poor folk like me and my fam’ly, real, honest, hard-working, (politically conservative and middle-of-the-road) Americans know that.

Thank you for enjoying my comments and I’ll be sure to help you some more.

Take a tip from an old hospital cook, and go right ahead and make your family ‘burgers using that 85% lean beef. A little extra heat and a good blotting on a brown paper bag before serving and that 20% cost reduction will be just as nutritious and dang near as tasty.

Use home-made ketchup ‘stead a store-bought and it’ll be even healthier.

This is something that

audiculous on December 20, 2010 at 10:42 PM

Go out and play kids and don’t worry about your weight.

tomas on December 21, 2010 at 9:07 AM