Farmers reach out to consumers during Food Check-Out Week
By Cyndie Sirekis
As they have done for the past decade and a half, farmer and rancher members of many local Farm Bureaus will reach out to consumers in their communities during Food Check-Out Week --Feb. 19-25. The official theme of the week is “Stretching Your Grocery Dollar With Healthy, Nutritious Food.” The theme reflects the continuing reality that many Americans are feeling an economic squeeze and, as a result, eat out less often and prepare more meals at home.
Offering practical information and tips on how to put nutritious meals on the table with fewer dollars is just one aspect of Food Check-Out Week. Many participating farmers and ranchers also are committed to responding to broader questions consumers may have about food -- how it is grown or raised and long-term effects on people’s health and the planet.
For many farmers and ranchers, this stepped-up interest in conversations about food, whether through in-person conversations or social media interaction with consumers, was sparked by The Food Dialogues, a new effort to bring together different viewpoints on farming and ranching, and the future of food.
The Food Dialogues is an initiative of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, a coalition of farmers, ranchers, and their industry partners, committed to continuously improving how they grow and raise food that provides healthy choices for people everywhere. The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance strives to bring together different viewpoints on farming and ranching and the future of food to solve today’s most challenging problems.
“For too long, farmers and ranchers have not had a voice in conversations about where food in America comes from,” said Terry Gilbert, a Kentucky farmer and chairman of the American Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee. “Now more than ever before, both during special observances such as Food Check-Out Week and as they go about their day-to-day routines, farmers are committed to participating in conversations with consumers, to answer the questions they have about food,” she said.
Although the way farmers talk about food with consumers is evolving, the Farm Bureau -- Ronald McDonald House Charities connection that was initiated when Food Check-Out Week first began remains strong.
Recognizing the need everyone has to find solutions to feeding families healthful foods on a tight budget, many county and state Farm Bureaus will make food donations to Ronald McDonald Houses or other charities during Food Check-Out Week. Ronald McDonald Houses provide a “home-away-from-home” for families of seriously ill children receiving medical treatment.
On the national level, the American Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee will make cash and food donations to the Ronald McDonald House of Central Indiana this year. The third week of February was selected for Food Check-Out Week as a bridge to National Nutrition Month in March.
Cyndie Sirekis is director of news services with the American Farm Bureau Federation.