Moultrie Observer

Agriculture

February 21, 2012

Food Check-Out Week: Eat healthy on a budget

MOULTRIE — Many Americans made New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and save money. These are hard resolutions to keep, and so, during Food Check-Out Week, Feb. 19-25, Farm Bureau is offering tips to help consumers eat healthy on a budget.

Farmers are consumers, too, and they share a common concern with non-farming consumers when it comes to putting nutritious meals on the table while sticking to a budget. Higher rates of diabetes and childhood obesity in the South make it crucial that everyone evaluate their diets and take responsibility for the food we eat.

As gas prices rise, this increases the cost of transporting, preparing and packaging food products, so you may hear news reports of rising grocery prices. The good news is, a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) report 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 soda.    

“Consumers may significantly reduce their grocery bills without sacrificing nutrition by shopping at competitively-priced stores, using coupons and store loyalty cards, and sticking to their shopping lists,” said Erline Cannon, Colquitt  County Farm Bureau Women’s Committee chairman. “Another way to stretch your grocery dollars without neglecting nutrition is to buy fresh produce when it’s in season and costs less, while buying frozen fruits and vegetables when they’re not in season.”

The USDA offers these tips for eating better on a budget:

• Plan your meals for the week before shopping. Include meals like stews, casseroles or stir-fries to stretch expensive items into more portions. Plan your meals based on sale items advertised in weekly store ads.

• Use the unit price listed on the shelf directly below the product to compare different brands and sizes of the same brand to get the best deal.

• Use leftover meats in new dishes such as salads or casseroles.

• Cook on your day off and freeze meals to use throughout the week as needed.

•Save money at restaurants by getting early bird specials, looking for 2 for 1 deals and ordering water.

Last year the USDA introduced a new logo, called MyPlate, to illustrate the amount of each of the five food groups the average American should consume to maintain a healthy weight. Visit www.ChooseMyPlate.gov to learn more about the USDA’s dietary recommendations and to determine how many calories you need each day to manage your weight. The USDA offers these tips for healthier meals:

• Make half your plate veggies & fruits in a variety of colors such as red tomatoes, orange sweet potatoes and greens.

• Choose lean meats

• Make at least half your grains whole grains (i.e. brown rice, popcorn & whole-wheat bread). Foods labeled as multi-grain, stone-ground, 100% wheat or bran are usually not 100% whole-grain products. Look for terms like whole wheat, bulgur, buckwheat, oatmeal, whole oats, whole rye or wild rice to be listed first in the ingredient label.

• Consume low-fat dairy products. Drink 2%, 1% percent or skim milk. Eat low-fat cheeses and yogurt.

• Skip heavy gravies & sauces that add fat to veggies & meat.

• Savor your food & eat slowly.

• Use a smaller plate to help with portion control.

• When eating out, order healthy options.

• Try new foods.

• Eat fruit as a healthy dessert.

Food Check-Out Week, now in its 14th year, also highlights the variety and dependability of America’s food supply, made possible by America’s farmers. According to the most recent information (2010) 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. In comparison, Italian consumers spend 14 percent; Chinese consumers spend 33 percent and Pakistani consumers spend 46 percent.

“The food grown by America’s farmers must meet higher safety and environmental standards than that grown in most other countries,” Cannon said. “Because we spend a lower percentage of our income on food, our nation enjoys a higher standard of living than most of the world. Even with the challenges of today’s economics, we have access to a wonderful variety of healthy food choices, and with solid planning, a healthy diet can be achieved.”

To celebrate America’s safe and affordable food supply, Colquitt County Farm Bureau is participating in a statewide Food Check-Out Week event. Today, Feb. 22, members of Colquitt County Farm Bureau will be distributing informational cards on “Stretching your Grocery Dollar with Healthy, Nutritious Food” at the Wednesday night suppers at the local downtown churches.  

Colquitt County Farm Bureau will also make a donation to the local food bank to assist the hungry in Colquitt County and to the Georgia Farm Bureau Women’s Committee, the sponsor of the statewide effort, to help assist visiting families staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Macon, Cannon said.

“As we discuss eating healthy on a budget, we want to help the less fortunate in our community and be a part of the statewide effort to provide assistance for the Ronald McDonald Houses in Georgia,” she said. “We realize our local food bank is experiencing an increased demand for its services, and so we are asking our local community to join us in collecting donations for the food bank and to help fund the Ronald McDonald House Charity, which feeds families with children experiencing a health crisis.”

Each year, the Georgia Farm Bureau Women’s Committee rotates the state donation to a different Ronald McDonald House. This year donations will benefit the Ronald McDonald House in Macon. In previous years, donations have been made to the Ronald McDonald Houses in Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus and Savannah. Since 1998, Georgia Farm Bureau and its county chapters have donated $32,700 collected during Food Check-Out events to the Ronald McDonald Houses of Georgia.

“Farmers are consumers, too, and we are feeling the impact of the economic crisis through higher fuel and input costs,” said Mrs. Cannon. “Although you may see higher retail prices for your food, please remember that on average, farmers only receive 16 cents out of every dollar spent on food. The rest of the food cost covers wages and materials for food processing, marketing, transportation and distribution. Recent food price increases are due primarily to higher energy costs associated with processing, hauling and refrigerating food products.”

Georgia Farm Bureau is the largest general farm organization in the state and is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. The organization has 158 county offices, and approximately one out of nine Georgians are involved with Farm Bureau. Its volunteer members actively participate in local, district and state activities that promote agriculture awareness to their non-farming neighbors.

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