Farmers: Healthy food possible on a tight budget
Despite slightly higher retail food prices over the past few years, the cost of eating healthy hasn't changed as much as some less-healthy alternatives.
In fact, a recent U.S. Agriculture Department report favorably supports the economics of healthier eating. 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 soda pop. Therefore, as defined by foods in the study, the price of a healthier diet has not changed compared to an unhealthy diet.
That's the message Arizona's farmers and ranchers will be sharing during Food Check-Out Week to be observed by the Arizona Farm Bureau this week. They will offer tips on how consumers can stretch their grocery dollars with healthy, nutritious food. Many farmers also plan to make a special effort to personally reach out to consumers or through social media to answer questions about the food they grow.
Yuma farm family Jonathan and Lara Dinsmore are among them. On the Arizona Farm Bureau's Fill Your Plate blog, the couple responded to a question from an Arizona mom about how to know she's getting the freshest produce.
The Dinsmores' answer is that Arizona farmers are planting and harvesting crops 12 months a year so there are greater opportunities here for fresh fruits and vegetables. They also suggested the mom gets to know her supermarket, use her senses in selecting fresh produce, learn what's in season and eat more fruits and vegetables.
“This might sound simplistic, but the more you eat fruits and vegetables the more you'll become familiar with what's fresh and what's tasty,” the Dinsmores advised. “Plus, your newfound knowledge of what's in season will add to your knowledge base of all things fresh.”
Learning to use your grocery dollars wisely helps ensure that nutrition isn't neglected, said Sharla Mortimer, chair of the Arizona Farm Bureau Women's Leadership Committee, a rancher and mother of four.
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 and costs less, while buying frozen fruits and vegetables when they're not in season, is a smart way to stretch that dollar, Mortimer said.
“Knowing your food budget, planning balanced meals, making a list and sticking to it are just a few of the tips we offer consumers.”
To celebrate Food Check-Out Week's 15th year, the Arizona Farm Bureau Women's Leadership Committee will go the State Capitol on Thursday to deliver 90 apple pies and visit with Arizona legislators. The Arizona apples in the pies were grown by Apple Annie's in Willcox.
In addition, committee members will shop for food to be donated to Ronald McDonald House Charities in Phoenix.