McConnors corner
Going Hungry In America
By Sean McConnor
Jul 6, 2008 - 12:34:07 AM

A lady who is a big-shot in a federal job was talking to some members of Congress the other day. She was admonishing them about all the perks they have given federal employees, but she told them what really mattered was a roof over your head and food on the table. Millions of us can agree with her right now.

According to the latest Associated Press Poll, 90 percent of us are feeling the squeeze of high gas prices. People are cutting corners or, quite literally, cutting off the corner to survive. For many, there are no more frills like eating out, new clothes, drinks, or trips to the amusement parks.  People are cutting back on driving and cutting off the air conditioners and heaters to conserve. Still others are trading in their gas guzzlers for smaller cars. And now people are changing the type of food they buy, or are just buying less.

One woman rationalized her consumption of hamburger meat recently, by saying that other people are eating beans instead of meat, so she is lucky. Maybe we all won't be so lucky when the impact of the Midwest floods sets in and food prices rise again. So far, the 7.6 percent wholesale inflation increase in food prices is the largest in 27 years.

I spoke with Kelli Horton, a registered dietitian and a member of the American Dietitian Association, about the impending crisis and what, perhaps, consumers can do to meet the impeding food crisis. Ms. Horton, who works at a local hospital, offered some practical solutions which will probably have most of us thumping our heads and wondering why we didn't think of them.

First of all, eat the food you prepare now and don't waste it by throwing it out. Freeze leftovers and try eating frozen and canned vegetables and fruit. Stay away from "fast food," which is becoming expensive. Try preparing your food from scratch rather than purchasing pre-prepared food and, above all, smarten up on your shopping habits. There are a number of discount and warehouse food chains which charge less than the conventional markets. Also, do some research on food storage because some food is perishable, and if you buy it in bulk, it may spoil.

All of this is practical advice because we Americans have become spoiled with the low cost of food. Proportional, I guess our food will always be cheaper and more plentiful than for everyone else, but, for the first time in peacetime, we are going to pay higher prices to eat.

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