|For the week of February 7, 2005|
Farmers Mark Food Check-Out Day
This week Farm Bureau members across the nation are creatively marking Food Check-Out Day the day when most Americans have earned enough disposable income to pay for all the food they eat both at home and away from home for the entire year. Many Farm Bureau groups are making food donations to Ronald McDonald House Charities or other worthy organizations on Food Check-Out Day.
The American Farm Bureau Federation Women's Committee, led by Kentucky farmer Terry Gilbert, will deliver a significant food donation to a local Ronald McDonald House in Los Angeles, which provides a "home-away-from-home" for the families of seriously ill children being treated at nearby hospitals. Donations such as these provide families staying at the houses with needed staple foods, so they can concentrate on caring for their children.
The bounty of safe, affordable food produced by America's farmer and ranchers benefits consumers, who pay less for food than citizens of any other country in the world. On average, Americans spend only about 10 percent of their disposable income on food, according to Agriculture Department statistics. This means that it takes only about 37 days for the average American to earn enough to buy their groceries for the entire year.
What's even more amazing is that the percentage of disposable personal income spent for food in the United States has declined over the last 34 years, due to increased standards of living. The last time Americans used 12 percent or more of their disposable income to purchase food was in 1983. In 1984, the average dropped to just under 12 percent and it has been steadily declining since then. For the past 7 years, Americans have spent an average of just 10 percent of their disposable income on food.
Food is more affordable today due to a widening gap between growth in per-capita incomes and the amount of money spent for food, according to USDA. The decrease in percentage of income used for food purchases is especially notable since trends indicate Americans are buying more expensive convenience food items for preparation at home, as well as more food away from home.
When you consider the typical price increases that Americans have had to absorb for purchases such as vehicles and other consumer products over the past 20 years, the cost of food seems like a real bargain. "The affordability of food here in the United States is truly something for which we should all be grateful," says Gilbert.
Farm Bureau leaders holding events this week also are spreading the message that Food Check-Out Day is more than two months earlier than Tax Freedom Day. Calculated by the Tax Foundation, Tax Freedom Day is when the average U.S. taxpayer has earned enough money to pay his or her local, state and federal taxes for the year.
So, the next time you hear someone express dismay about having to work so hard to pay taxes, you might interject a gentle reminder that food in America remains affordable, thanks to the farmers and ranchers who produce it.
Cyndie Sirekis is a director of news services for the American Farm Bureau Federation.