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The Wall Street Journal reports that one of the casualties of the rising costs of food is likely to be people’s efforts to eat healthier food – since such products are, by their very nature, more expensive than less healthy foods. This won’t just impact people who are eating healthier by choice, but also people who are dealing with specific medical conditions.

According to the Journal story, “Relief from the rising cost of food isn't expected anytime soon. Food prices increased 4% in 2007 and are expected to be up an additional 5% to 6% this year, according to the Department of Agriculture. The food crisis has sparked riots around the world and stretched pocketbooks at home, but it is for some as much a health concern as an economic problem. Since healthier foods, like whole wheat bread and fresh fruits, are already more expensive than white bread and processed foods, the increases are acutely felt by people trying to fight serious illnesses.”

In part, the impact really is being felt by organizations that deal with these people, and the Journal notes that “food inflation is forcing many of these groups to scale back their ambitions or reassess how they operate.”

KC's View:
I don't mean to sound callous here, and I would concede that I’m lucky enough not to be dealing with these sorts of issues. But the Journal story talks about one woman who, faced with reduced resources, slips into old habits and begins eating greasy 99-cent sausage sandwiches rather than the healthy food that will help her deal with a specific medical condition. And I cannot help but wonder if there also is an education gap here in addition to a nutrition gap – because when you are sick and your life literally spends on what you put in your mouth, there have to be choices other than greasy sausage sandwiches.

Interestingly, the New York Times had a story about how some parents are concerned about how the rising cost of food will impact the lunches eaten by their children – both the ones sent from home and the ones served by schools. The general feeling seems to be that increased costs are likely to result in decreased nutrition.

Once again, I have to ask the question. Is fresh fruit really more expensive than a bag of chips? Whole grain brad doesn’t have to be artisanal…if you look hard enough, there are other choices.

This all can be a great opportunity for retailers, it seems to me, if they want to confront the challenge and really, really educate their shoppers about the choices available to them.