The result may be a hefty bill, but members of the Missouri Farm Bureau are taking the time today to remind consumers that many times it's not the food that makes up the bulk of the bill, it's other items.
"We live in a supercenter-type world where you go in and spend $80," said Diane Olson, director of promotion and education for the Missouri Farm Bureau. "But when you dissect what's in that shopping cart or grocery bag, many items are nonconsumable."
According to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics, Americans spend only about 10 percent of their disposable income to buy food.
By applying this 10 percent statistic to the calendar year, the average household will earn enough disposable income -- that portion of income available for spending or saving -- to pay for its annual food supply in just 36 days in 2004.
"A lot of people don't realize how cheap food is and don't believe it," said Suzy Johnson, chair of Scott County Farm Bureau's promotion and education committee.
In India, consumers spend 51 percent of their disposable income to purchase food a year, Olson said.
"We have never experienced shortages in local grocery stores -- except we may have seen a first glimpse of it on icy days when stores run out of certain items," pointed out Jami Geske, member of the Missouri Farm Bureau board of directors and vice chair of the state promotions and education committee.
The percentage of disposable personal income spent for food has declined over the years. In 1970, Food Check-Out Day would have been 15 days later. The types of food purchased then differ from today.
"Probably if we look at trends, we'll see more meals are being prepared away from home or people are actually eating out," Olson noted.
Today the Farm Bureau's Promotion and Education Committee coordinates several events throughout the state recognizing Food Check-Out Day and assists many county Farm Bureaus that conduct their own local promotions.
For example, from 4-6 p.m. today at Sikeston Market Place in Sikeston, members of the Scott and New Madrid County Farm Bureaus will sack groceries for consumers. They will also have literature on farm facts available. In addition, the Farm Bureaus will buy two shoppers their groceries today. "We won't be telling shoppers anything," Johnson admitted. "We're not asking for money. We are just trying to bring to their attention what they actually buy at the grocery store and that their food is a bargain."
Johnson admitted there have been some skeptics in the past about Food Check-Out Day, but she said they're are just delivering agricultural facts about where Missouri production rates in the nation.
Less than 2 percent of the U.S. workforce are farmers in the United States. However, over half the workforce in Scott, New Madrid, Mississippi and Stoddard counties are farmers, according to the Missouri Agricultural Statistics Service.
Over 24 million American workers, or 17 percent of the total U.S. workforce is involved in producing, processing, selling or trading the nation's food and fiber.
Often it is believed the cost of food goes directly to the producer -- the farmer, but that's not true, Olson indicated.
Based upon current prices, a farmer will receive about 31 cents for a breakfast consisting of a 4-ounce ham slice, two eggs, two 5-inch pancakes, one cup of orange juice, one cup milk, two slices of toast, butter, jelly, 1/2-cup of syrup and two cups of coffee.
"Even this is not a profit for farmers because they still have overhead costs still have to pay for operational costs out of that," Olson said.
To put the cost of food in perspective, last year American's had to work until April 19, Tax Freedom Day, to earn enough money to pay federal, state and local taxes, according the Tax Foundation. That is almost three times longer than to pay for the annual food supply. Rather than being an economic burden, food remains a bargain for shoppers.
"Food availability is different in the United States," Olson said. "We don't worry about food safety and some take it for granted because of our high standards here."
In 1940, 19 people were fed by one farmer, and in 2003, about 135 people were fed by one farmer, the USDA reports.
"We're very lucky to not have a foreign dependence or security issues," Geske said. "Agriculture is so important in the local community and today is the time to thank a farmer."