Pundits have been comparing our current economic times to those of the Great Depression, and while food prices are on the rise, American spending on food today pales in comparison. In 1933 we spent 25 percent of our income on food; last year, only 9.8 percent. It’s true—food prices are increasing, but when you look at the numbers, the growing cost of food may not be as significant as you might think.
The current U.S. median weekly income.
Current average weekly food expenditure in the U.S.*
The increase in the prices of commodity foods—such as corn, wheat, rice, soybeans, etc.—over the last 2 years.
The price per bushel of corn in 2007.
The price per bushel of corn in 2008.**
Our average weekly food expenditure (+$6.50), if the price of commodity foods were to increase by 50 percent.
The price of two Starbucks lattes.
* Calculations based on percent of income spent on food in 2007 and U.S. median weekly income in third quarter 2008.
**Average based on data from January to September 2008.
SOURCES: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Economic Research Service.