The Politics of Poverty

Ideas and analysis from Oxfam America's policy experts

Sky-high food prices: Now with sprinkles!

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This isn’t just a treat to help cows beat the heat; in fact, it shows how US farmers are resorting to extreme measures to deal with the worst drought in 50 years. Unfortunately, poor people don’t have that option.

Megan Whitacre is a former Oxfam America intern and current CHANGE leader

Here in the Midwest, we know farmers can get creative to deal with fluctuating prices. But this summer local farmers are turning their feed trough into an ice cream sundae. In Elkhart County, Indiana, one farmer has started to feed his dairy cows ice cream sprinkles, cookies, marshmallows, and gummy bears to give his cows the energy they need to produce milk. And in Reno County, Kansas, another farmer is feeding his cows thousands of pounds of chocolate scraps from a local chocolate factory.

Dairy cows on a US farm. Jacob Silberberg/Oxfam America

This isn’t just a treat to help cows beat the heat; in fact, it shows how US farmers are resorting to extreme measures to deal with the worst drought in 50 years across big corn and soy-producing states in the Midwest. Last year saw similar problems with drought in the US; as climate change endures, farmers in these states will continue to face hardship, and food prices will continue to surge. This year produced one of the smallest corn yields in 6 years, according to the USDA, and has sent food prices soaring worldwide. Meanwhile, last year, the US burned up 40 per cent of our domestic corn crop to make ethanolpushing corn and other food prices higher. The corn farmers feed their animals is pricier than it ever has been—and sometimes not available at all.  And when feed prices go up, so does the cost for meat, dairy products, and other food that comes from animals.

Unfortunately, poor people don’t have the option of chowing on chocolate all day to dampen the impact of food costs. Worldwide, poor people bear the brunt of high food prices as food becomes an increasingly larger percentage of their budgets. And in countries where food is already scarce, not only do high prices make food aid increasingly necessary for basic survival, high prices also hinder the ability of thousands to break out of poverty as school costs and basic necessities are lost to the price of food. So it’s not just a lull in the fight against poverty. It’s a huge step back.

Next time you see headlines about food prices, bacon shortages, or even crazy stories about chocolate-eating cows, remember those who are being impacted the most. Organizations like Oxfam are taking a stand to address this growing food crisis. Join us by taking action on October 16 for World Food Day, and educate others about how they can help.

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