You would think that Americans spend more on food today than they did 30 or 50 years ago. After all, food prices always seem to be on the rise, and more and more people are striving to feed their families high quality, healthy food.
Americans on average spent just 15.3% of income in 2011 on food—less than half of the 40% of income spent on food in 1949, according to NPR Planet Money’s Graphing America series. Why? One reason is that many categories of food have actually plunged in price, and Americans have been choosing to eat the cheap stuff.
Some would say we’re not even eating food at all: Processed foods and sweets make up a whopping 22.9% of the average American food budget, according to the Graphing America series. That’s more than we spend on any other category of food—and almost exactly double the amount we spent on processed foods and sweets 30 years ago. Knowing this, it’s not very surprising that obesity and diabetes are reaching epidemic proportions.
Meat, our previously No. 1 food expense, dropped by a third to 21.5% of total food expenses. That’s not necessarily because Americans eat less meat, but because factory farming has driven down prices (pork chops have fallen 37.9%, for example). Meanwhile, the dropping prices take a toll on smaller, more humane and environmentally conscious ranchers whose products are better for us.
Statistics aside, if we as a society valued the food we eat more, farmers and farm workers would be able to make a better living, the land would be treated better, and less food would be wasted every day. If everyone bought organic and sustainably produced food, their costs would go down and they’d be available to more of us. Additionally, if we put a higher value on our food, we would also savor and enjoy it more, appreciating the flavors, the stories, and the communities that good food tends to bring into our lives.
We hope that this issue of Edible Monterey Bay—and each issue, in fact—offers you much inspiration to further the movement taking place all around us to value our food more—and likewise to support the local farmers, fishermen and food artisans who make healthy eating possible.
This issue also marks Edible Monterey Bay’s first anniversary, and we’d especially like to express our profound thanks to our forward-thinking advertisers, our talented contributors and staff, our subscribers, our colleagues within the Edible Communities network and many others who helped us hit the ground running just one year ago.
We wish you a happy and healthy autumn—and hope you’ll enjoy the fall harvest!
Sarah Wood and Rob Fisher