Food Check-out Day is Feb. 9 |

Food Check-out Day is Feb. 9

by Ed Foster

Food in America is a bargain. Between Jan. 1 and Feb. 9, the average American will have earned enough income to pay for his or her family’s entire 1999 food supply, according to the Nevada Farm Bureau.

As a result, the Nevada Farm Bureau is celebrating Feb. 9 as Food Check-Out Day. Last year, Food Check-Out Day also fell on Feb. 9. According to the latest statistics compiled by the USDA’s Economic Research Service, American families and individuals currently spend, on average, only 10.7 percent of their disposable personal income for food. That percentage is down from the 109.9 percent figure from last year.

Applying the 10.7 percent statistic to the calendar year, it means the average household will have earned enough disposable income – that portion of income available for spending or saving – to pay for its annual food supply in just 40 days.

In comparison to Food Check-Out Day, Tax Freedom Day – the day the average American earned enough money to pay federal, state and local taxes – was May 10 last year, according to The Tax Foundation.

“Not only is America’s food supply the world’s safest, it’s also the most affordable,” said Dennis Hellwinkel, Nevada Farm Bureau president. “It speaks well of our nation’s increasing standard of living, which would certainly be reduced without the affordable, domestic food supply produced by America’s farmers and ranchers.”

To mark the occasion, the Nevada Farm Bureau Women’s Committee donated $500 worth of food, about a month’s supply, to the Ronald McDonald House in Reno and Las Vegas. The presentation in Las Vegas will take place at 9 a.m., and in Reno on Feb. 9 at 12:30 p.m. The Ronald McDonald House provides a “home away form home” for the families of seriously ill children receiving medical treatment in the Reno area. The food will be used to help feed visiting families staying at the two houses.

The money to buy the food was raised by the Nevada Farm Bureau’s Women’s Committee. They made a quilt out of artwork done by children all over the state. Upon completion, they sold raffle tickets at various events, statewide, and held the drawing at this year’s annual meeting.

“We had fun doing this project, and hope it will make a difference,”‘ said Sonya Johnson, Nevada Farm Bureau’s Women’ Committee chairperson. “It’s a good thing.”

“I find it amazing that people can pay for their yearly food supply more than three months earlier than it would take them to satisfy their tax burden,” Hellwinkel said. “Rather than being an economic burden, food remains quite a bargain for shoppers. That’s the way it should be.”

Hellwinkel hopes Americans will come to understand that the high-quality, affordable food they enjoy is “a product of our successful food production and distribution system, as well as America’s farmers retaining access to effective and affordable crop protection tools.”

“This day should hold meaning for most Americans,” he said. “As food producers, we are concerned that some Americans cannot afford to buy the food they need, but we are proud of the part Nevada farmers and ranchers play in making our food supply more affordable for all.”

The percent of disposable personal income spent for food has declined over the last 25 years. In 1970, Food Check-Out Day would have been 11 days later – Feb. 20. 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.

This overall decrease is made more notable by the fact that trends indicate Americans are buying more expensive convenience food items for preparation at home, as well as more food away from home.

The Agriculture Department’s latest food spending statistic includes food and non-alcoholic beverages consumed at home and away from home. This includes food purchases from grocery stores and other retail outlets, including food purchases with food stamps and vouchers for the Women, Infants and Children’s (WIC) program. The statistic also includes away-from-home meals and snacks purchased by families and individuals, as well as food furnished to employees.

“Food Check-Out Day tracks the amount of income needed by Americans to purchase food on an annual basis,” Hellwinkel said. “It should be useful over time to measure fluctuations in the affordability of food.”

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