U.S. food prices rose 4 percent in 2007, compared with an average 2.5 percent annual rise for the last 15 years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And the agency says 2008 could be worse, with a rise of as much as 4.5 percent.Higher costs—or flat unavailability—of healthy food will mean decreased health, even as healthcare costs also skyrocket, especially among the poor, where healthy eating is a class issue as much as access to healthcare is, and where increasing "very low food security" has been a widely ignored problem for at least two years already. Meanwhile, BushCo will just keep printing more money, which will further weaken the dollar, which will drive up the price of staples like milk and wheat even more.
…For the U.S. poor, any increase in food costs sets up an either-or equation: Give something up to pay for food.
"I was talking to people who make $9 an hour, talking about how they might save $5 a week," said Kathleen DiChiara, president and CEO of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey. "They really felt they couldn't. That was before. Now, they have to."
…Wonder Bagels, in Jersey City, N.J., posted a letter from its wheat supplier, A. Oliveri & Sons, saying the recent situation was unprecedented.
"The major mills across the country are using words like 'rationing' and 'shortages' if things continue," it said. "We will sweat out the summer together, hoping there will be some flour left to purchase at any price."
And it's getting ugly out there for the global poor, who have to spend a higher percentage of their incomes on basic food necessities even than American poor: "Riots from Haiti to Bangladesh to Egypt over the soaring costs of basic foods have brought the issue to a boiling point and catapulted it to the forefront of the world's attention, the head of an agency focused on global development said Monday."
World Bank President Robert Zoellick has said the surging costs could mean "seven lost years" in the fight against worldwide poverty.That's not a total clusterfucktastrophe waiting to happen or anything.
"While many are worrying about filling their gas tanks, many others around the world are struggling to fill their stomachs, and it is getting more and more difficult every day," Zoellick said late last week in a speech opening meetings with finance ministers.
…"In just two months," Zoellick said in his speech, "rice prices have skyrocketed to near historical levels, rising by around 75 percent globally and more in some markets, with more likely to come. In Bangladesh, a 2-kilogram bag of rice ... now consumes about half of the daily income of a poor family."
The price of wheat has jumped 120 percent in the past year, he said -- meaning that the price of a loaf of bread has more than doubled in places where the poor spend as much as 75 percent of their income on food.
But no worries—my president tells me that the invisible hand of the market will solve everything. It'll probably show up in Haiti carrying a bag of groceries any day now.
I'm sure if we had reason to worry, he wouldn't be so jolly.