Food And the Recession Part 1: Stretching Your Dollar by Returning to Basics

Some say the best way to save money is to never spend it in the first place but it isn’t so simple when every penny brought in is spent on just staying alive. Many Americans are in that very situation. Over 15% of US households in 2011 had struggled to put food on the table. Many American families struggling to feed themselves can try a hybrid approach to solving food insecurity issues. One cannot live by food stamps or food pantries alone, or at least eat healthy. If we arm families in poverty with information and resources then perhaps we can begin to resolve the complex problems that keep people from being able to obtain enough healthy food for living.

Food and health are closely related. A doctor will often tell a patient to eat healthy but for so many just struggling to buy food, eating healthy seems like an unachievable and luxurious lifestyle. For many American households, especially those living in poverty, the largest portion of expenses after housing is food. The average American family spends much less than a family on food by percentage at about 6%. Compare that to a family living in poverty who spends 1/3 of their income or more on food.

Keeping enough food on the table has gotten even harder due to a jump in food prices we haven’t seen in 36 years.

Economists predict we will see a 3-4% jump in food prices this year alone. News outlets have begun referring to increasing food prices as the invisible food crisis. Middle class Americans are feeling the pinch but impoverished Americans are going hungry. Tough times like these call for a return to past knowledge and previous practices. If you were lucky enough to have known grandparents who survived the Great Depression you may have heard stories of hardship and how it was possible to survive by gardening, canning, freezing food, buying meat as a community, hunting and fishing.

Those same tried and true practices can be taken to heart now. Americans are gardening their way through hardship and relying on community cooperation to get them through.

Growing one’s own food may allow for saving money for needed car repairs, medications or just to cover housing cost. The money saved by growing one’s own food can be the determinant factor between homelessness or even life and death.  Even those without a plot of land can find a wealth or information online when searching for community gardens online within their cities and towns.

Contrary to the false belief of many Americans that food stamps are a handout and that people are gaming the system, the amount of assistance is actually very little and the rates are set to be a supplement to the food one is able to buy. In many cases the parents of children living in poverty are just trying to get enough food, any food into the stomach of a child to keep them from suffering the physical pain of hunger. Perhaps the situation can be addressed in many different ways but returning to traditional food practices can provide relief to those able to grow their own food and store it.



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