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Gas, Food Prices Pinch Elderly Meal Programs

In an earlier post, I wrote on how rising food prices are caused by hoarding nations and not the savagely ticking meter at the pump. Well I did myself a disservice by ignoring how hard we struggle to keep up with gas, food, health insurance, and mortgage payments every day.

Life is hard, and the price of gasoline isn’t making food any more affordable. I can’t begin to think how hard it must be for the elderly left to fend for themselves at an almost obscene age. But let’s try. Imagine leaving a newborn child out on the street with no means of survival. I’d say baby blue is a goner unless some benevolent being comes to the rescue.

According to an article released by the Associated Press, there are an estimated 20,000 senior nutrition programs across the country that serve millions of elderly and frail Americans (those benevolent beings to the rescue) that are being squeezed by soaring food costs.

That means for every arthritis stricken 81 year old Sally May who relies on the hot meals delivered daily to their homes for sustenance, may not have that lifeline to count on tomorrow.

There are 47 million Americans without health insurance, a quarter of which will check-in the emergency room for various injuries and illnesses, fine. They may live another day to pay-off that outrageous hospital bill. But Sally May and baby blue only get one shot at survival, and that chance may be something small, like an innocuous loaf of bread.

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Hoarding Nations Drive Food Costs Ever Higher

Lately, every day has felt like the harbinger of record high prices at the pump, and now the same can be said about our food. I suppose the news shouldn’t hit so hard, after all, it’s only expected that food prices rise as the cost of planting rise with it. But according to a recent article published by the New York Times, prices of fertilizer, diesel and other farm expenses aren’t the only reason for skyward prices.

At least 29 countries have sharply curbed food exports in recent months, to ensure that their own people have enough to eat, at affordable prices. The food hoarding comes as increasing perceptions of shortages scare countries into a panic that has inadvertently made a real food crisis entirely possible.

Now, with food protests and ill climate changes, the world is increasingly dependant on a handful of food exporting countries like Brazil and the United States whose produce is protected by large subsidies that drown other countries with a tsunami of exports, which is another reason why trade barriers have risen and food prices have gone up. The result is what United States trade representative Susan C. Schwab noted as “Once country’s act to promote food security is another country’s food insecurity.”

With powerful lobbies from Japan to Western Europe to the United States protecting farmers in ways factory workers in Detroit could only dream of, the current dispute over food trade touches on an age-old question for civilizations everywhere:

“Is it best to specialize in whatever food grows best in a country’s soil, and trade it for all other food needs—or even, perhaps, specialize in services or manufacturing, and trade those for food?

Or is it best to seek self-sufficiency in every type of food that will, weather permitting, grow within a country’s borders?”

The usual answer within an ever globalizing world is that everyone benefits most if every country specializes what it can most efficiently make, and trade for the rest.

One way of looking at it is if Egypt had to be self-sufficient in food, there would be no water left in the Nile. But specialization only works if countries are willing to trade in what has become a globalized market.

In many ways, the price stand-off is like the tension felt in a high-stake game of poker. The food and gas connection are the jokers in a deck of cards that are sorted from the pile. Meanwhile, all the aces are held by food exporting countries like us, while the food hoarders make a go at a believable bluff.

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