Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Price is Rice

With the city having lost over 1/3 of its supermarkets in the past five years, it will be increasing difficult for consumers-particularly those in low income neighborhoods-to find good modern food outlets. This problem will be exacerbated by the fact that food prices are rising all over the globe, and Americans are becoming really worried about the cost of groceries. As a Gallup survey found: "Rising food prices are a significant worry for Americans, with 73% of consumers in a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll citing higher grocery bills as a concern, and nearly half saying food inflation has caused a hardship for their households."

In the city, one manifestation of this world wide crisis can be found in the scarcity of rice. As the NY Daily News reports this morning, "First we face a gas crisis. Now it's the price of rice that is hitting New Yorkers hard as the nation's shopkeepers confront shortages and several states have even started rationing." The scarcity of vital food staples, when coupled with a scarcity of supermarkets, could become a perfect storm in the city if policy makers don't start to address the problem right now.

And it looks as if the issue could become a major factor in this falls election, and in all likelihood. the next mayoral cycle here as well. As the NY Sun points out this morning: "When talking about the concerns that preoccupy voters in tough economic times, political analysts often turn to a well-worn phrase: bread-and-butter issues. It seems hard to dispute, then, that the cost of bread could end up playing a role in this year’s campaign for the White House."

And if we can help it, the shortage of supermarkets in NYC will be front and center for all of the city wide candidates for public office next year. Maybe then we can take all of those fruit peddlers and turn them into union workers at the local A&P, Key Food and Gristedes.