Great Recession shows families with improved diets

This month’s edition of the USDA Amber Waves reports that:

The fact that a decline in FAFH [Food Away From Home] consumption was only observed among working-age adults, and not among older adults, suggests that the recession was a large factor influencing where working-age adults obtained their food. However, the fact that accounting for household income did not affect the estimated change in FAFH consumption over the period suggests that the recession effect was not mainly through income, but through other channels such as increased time available for shopping and preparing food at home.

Researchers also found that most of the improvements in diet quality were not a result of the decline in FAFH consumption. The quality of at-home and away-from-home foods improved, perhaps from consumers focusing more on nutrition when selecting foods. Whether or not these changes are a result of the recession or are due to other factors cannot be determined with the data. However, the fact that improved diet quality was observed among older adults and that they also reported greater attention to nutrition information suggests that this nutrition focus is not simply the result of higher unemployment. Food manufacturers may also be responding in part to consumer demand for nutrition by improving the nutritional content of foods that they produce.

Cutting back and eating more food at home correlates with improved nutrition and family time.  That’s good — but not surprising — news.  Although there is no direct link between the two, priorities have shifted.  Read the full article here.

That’s not all.  The United States added 5 million home food gardeners from 2008 to 2009, an increase of 14%.  41 million people who garden for food at home might be impacting those improved nutrition numbers a bit.

Unfortunately, the need for gardening for food for economic reasons is likely here to stay.  The Congressional Budget Office report “The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2014 to 2024” forecasts a solid pace in economic growth through 2017, although they don’t expect unemployment to drop below 6% until 2016 and then not by much.  But after 2017:

Beyond 2017, CBO expects that economic growth will diminish to a pace that is well below the average seen over the past several decades. That projected slowdown mainly reflects long-term trends—particularly, slower growth in the labor force because of the aging of the population. Inflation, as measured by the change in the price index for personal consumption expenditures (PCE), will remain at or below 2.0 percent throughout the next decade, CBO anticipates… In CBO’s projections, the growth of potential GDP over the next 10 years is much slower than the average since 1950.

That’s a projection, not something written in stone.  As baby boomers continue to retire it will cause a demographic, cultural and economic shift in the United States, the likes of which haven’t been seen since they were born.  Many will be healthy, active and likely to spend decades in retirement.  It’s hard for anyone to say exactly what the full ramifications of that demographic transition will be, and any projections must be viewed as a possibility, not a probability.

If you are involved in home food production, you have a lot of company right now.