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Focus on Agriculture

February 19, 2013

Reaching Consumers During Food Check-Out Week

By Cyndie Sirekis

Farmer and rancher members of many local Farm Bureaus are reaching out to consumers in their communities during Food Check-Out Week, which runs through Feb. 23. Farmers are talking about how to cut costs while putting nutritious meals on the table.

Over the past few years, rising energy costs for processing, packaging and transportation have been the driving forces behind modest increases in retail food prices.

Fortunately, plenty of options are available so that consumers do not have to turn to less-nutritious foods that lack essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients, to make ends meet.

Tips for better nutrition on a stretched budget, making sense of food labels and understanding USDA’s MyPlate guidelines are among the topics Farm Bureau members will be talking about with consumers, at farmers’ markets, supermarket demonstration stations, and other venues during Food Check-Out Week.

Today, more than ever before, farmers and ranchers are committed to talking with consumers, to answer their questions about food and to share with them how they are committed to continuous improvement when it comes to growing food. This is true during special observances such as Food Check-Out Week, as well as when farmers go about their day-to-day routines and engage in social media.

“Stretching Your Grocery Dollar With Healthy, Nutritious Food,” the official theme of Farm Bureau’s Food Check-Out Week, reflects the fact that many Americans continue to look for ways to deal with an economic squeeze. Shopping for food to prepare more meals at home and dining out less frequently are two strategies people are using to cope with the situation.

Terry Gilbert, a Kentucky farmer who chairs the AFB Women’s Leadership Committee, has found that consumers like being able to talk in person with people who grow food.

At national Food Check-Out Week events in Phoenix, Gilbert and other farmers and ranchers on the committee talked with customers at a farmers’ market.

“We had some really positive conversations,” said Gilbert. “We were able to share a little bit about what we do on our farms and ranches.”

The Food Check-Out Week connection between Farm Bureau and Ronald McDonald House Charities was forged more than a decade ago. Ronald McDonald Houses around the nation provide a “home-away-from-home” for the families of seriously ill children receiving medical treatment at area hospitals.

Since the program was initiated in the mid-1990s, Farm Bureau members have donated more than $3 million in food and monetary contributions to Ronald McDonald Houses and other charities during Food Check-Out Week.

Participating county and state Farm Bureaus will hold similar events throughout Food Check-Out Week. Links to state Farm Bureau websites may be found at: http://www.fb.org/index.php?action=statefbs.

The third week of February was selected for Food Check-Out Week as a way to celebrate American food and as a bridge to National Nutrition Month in March.


Cyndie Sirekis is director of news services at the American Farm Bureau Federation.