FOOD CHECK-OUT WEEK FOCUSES ON NUTRITION ON TIGHT BUDGET
MONTGOMERY, Ala. - As America continues to work through serious economic times, Alabama farmers are observing Food Check-Out Week, Feb. 20-26, amid consumer concerns over maintaining a nutritious diet and tight food budgets.
"Learning to use your grocery dollars wisely helps ensure that nutrition isn't neglected," according to Kim Earwood, director of the Women's Leadership Division of the Alabama Farmers Federation, which uses the national observance to focus on helping Americans stretch their grocery dollars with healthy, nutritious food. "Fruits and vegetables -- along with whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, fish, beans, eggs and nuts -- are an important part of a healthy diet. Buying fresh produce when it's in season or frozen fruits and vegetables when they're not in season, is a smart way to stretch that dollar."
Now in its 13th year, Food Check-Out Week also highlights America's safe, abundant and affordable food supply, made possible largely by America's productive farmers and ranchers. According to the most recent (2009) information from the USDA's Economic Research Service, American families and individuals spend, on average, less than 10 percent of their disposable personal income for food.
Another recent USDA report favorably supports the economics of healthier eating. Recent food price data shows that prices for unprepared, readily available fresh fruits and vegetables have remained stable relative to dessert and snack foods, such as chips, ice cream and cola. Therefore, as defined by foods in the study, the price of a "healthier" diet has not changed compared to an "unhealthy" diet.
Members of the Alabama Farmers Federation Women's Leadership Committee, as well as committees in many of its 67 county Federations across Alabama, collect and distribute food items at events before and during Food Check-Out Week. Some of the events include providing food items and meals to residents at the Ronald McDonald Houses and other charities, as well as sponsoring monetary donations to local food banks.
Additionally, the Women's Leadership Committee collected 1,816 pounds of pop tabs in 2010 to raise donations of $1,000 in cash and $3,000 in-kind to the two Ronald McDonald Houses in Alabama. Another $1,000 in cash and $1,500 in-kind support was given to other charities in celebration of Food Check-Out Week. About 260 volunteers in 26 counties reached 1,200 people through their programs last year.
The American Farm Bureau Federation, of which the Alabama Farmers Federation is a member, reported charitable donations (cash and in-kind) to Ronald McDonald Houses of $136,763 with another $89,269 in donations to other charities, totaling more than $226,000.