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WWG’s signature program is well-timed for families struggling with rising food costs

“The last time Americans spent this much of their money on food, George H. W. Bush was in office, “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” was in theaters and C+C Music Factory was rocking the Billboard charts.”

“It’s Been 30 Years Since Food Ate Up This Much of Your Income,” The Wall Street Journal, February 2024.

It’s clear to many of us that the price of feeding our family is going up. The basics cost more at the supermarket. Restaurant prices have risen even faster. The amount families pay for food as a percentage of disposable income has reached a level not seen for more than three decades.

Recent news stories in The Wall Street Journal highlight the new reality when it comes to the cost of food, sadly sometimes including the adoption of new habits with unhealthy meals at the center. At Wholesome Wave Georgia (WWG), we believe in a different direction, embracing a mission to make fresh, healthy, locally grown food affordable and available to all Georgians.

“This is the time for us all to step up and do what we can to expand access to healthy food options for all,” said Will Sellers, WWG’s Executive Director. “Our programs knit together a network of farmers, neighbors, and community partners who believe affordable access to healthy food options creates a more inclusive, nourishing, and loving food system that empowers families.”

Finding solutions to issues surrounding rising food costs takes work. The Wall Street Journal’s coverage of the issue identifies a myriad of problems, including: 

  • Labor costs: In January, 22 states raised the minimum wage for hourly workers. In April, California will raise the minimum wage 25% for fast-food workers employed by large chains.
  • Scarcity of commodities: Sugar, beef, and cocoa prices have become an important factor in rising restaurant costs.
  • Pressure on profits: Food companies have reacted to cost fluctuations by either raising the price, shrinking the package, or both.
  • Investors are feeling the pain. A S&P 500 sub-index of restaurant stocks has gone up in the last year, but trails well behind the broader index. An S&P sub-index tracking packaged food and meat companies fell 8% during that year. 

As the WSJ article points out, the painful result is that — according to the U.S. Agriculture Department — the percentage of disposable income consumers spend for food has returned to a level not seen in more than three decades.

The WSJ article left little hope that the problem will go away soon. Quoting the CEO of Kellanova, makers of Pop-Tarts and a host of other snacks, “If you look historically after periods of inflation, there’s really no period you could point to where (food) prices go back down.”

Yet WWG’s signature program — Fresh for Less — is building a defense to rising food costs, providing paths that ensure all Georgians have the opportunity to eat healthy food.

Our Fresh for Less program matches SNAP/EBT dollars — commonly referred to as food stamps — dollar for dollar at participating farmers markets, farm stands, mobile markets, and retailers . When you spend $10, you get an extra $10 to spend on fresh, local fruits and vegetables. Families pay less for fresh and local food that is higher quality and more nutritious.

“We’re optimistic about the opportunities for Georgia families to obtain healthy food in a cost-effective way,” said Will Sellers. “With the community’s help and a lot of hard work  we can overcome rising costs and continue to provide healthy food to those who need and deserve it.” 

Donate here to support WWG’s Fresh for Less and other programs.

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