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What does food really cost - and how can we make it more accessible?

written by

Michelle Sroka

posted on

August 20, 2021

How do you determine the cost of your food?

I imagine that most of us think about cost in monetary terms. Even after four years of farming, I'll admit that I often default to that perspective, as well. I want to be frugal and economical when I'm shopping; I want to make sure that I feel comfortable with the amount of money I'm willing to spend.

Yet, as the latest IPCC report on climate change reminds us, the "cost" of food extends beyond the monetary values we've assigned to it. The way that food is grown, managed, and harvested has an impact upon communities, people, and animals within that place, but also far beyond it.

As a farmer growing pasture-raised food, it can often feel difficult to talk about our cost. The cost of our food is obviously noticeably different than what you'll find at the supermarket. It requires different budgeting, and perhaps, changes to our lifestyles to accommodate this.

I'm well-versed in talking about why this is. Our cost is different because we raise our food differently. Our animals are treated humanely. Feed, when given to poultry and hogs, is bought locally from a small farmer. Animals live on pasture, receiving more attention and requiring more time to grow.

Yet cost is still an uncomfortable topic. I know why our food costs what it does - but what do I do about those who cannot afford it? How do you balance monetary value with social justice and equity?

I'd like to pose this question to you. How do you think about the cost of food? How do you envision making high-quality food more accessible for people with limited budgets?

One small way we've tried to answer this on our farm is by leaning into our Catholic Worker roots, and begging for donations.

Every other week, we set aside a portion of our eggs for donation to our local food pantry. Generous donors who are willing to buy these eggs at a wholesale price allow those who shop at these food pantries to buy products that are more nutritionally dense and humanely raised than anything they can find at a grocery store.

That's one little way we're trying to impact our community for the better. What are other ways we can do this? I'd love to hear your ideas.

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