Families across the nation have reported increasing rates of food shortage since the start of COVID-19. The successive outbreaks of the epidemic and inflation have led to food shortages and rising food prices. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, food prices continue to rise. The food price index climbed more than 9% in April 2022, and it is the largest 12-month increase in 41 years. In 2022, all food prices are now predicted to increase between 7.5 and 8.5 percent. Pork prices are predicted to increase between 7.0 and 8.0 percent. Processed fruits and vegetable prices increase between 7.5 and 8.5 percent, and other food prices between 10.0 and 11.0 percent.
Where Are Americans Cutting Their Spending?
A survey of 2,000 adults conducted by the Nationwide Retirement Institute showed that many Americans are changing how they live day to day simply as a way to keep on top of inflation. 10% of the respondents are reducing contributions to their 401(k), 14% moving in with their family, 19% are planning to look for a better-paying job, 21% are relying more on credit cards, 35% decide to drive less considering the climbing cost of oil and gas. And half of the respondents choose to eat at home to fight the soaring food price.
According to a new report from market research firm The NPD Group, more than 8 in 10 consumers are planning to rethink or even reduce their product spending in the next three to six months. Consumers choose to buy or switch to cheaper dairy products, buying fewer items per shop and avoiding non-essentials. And shoppers are reluctant to buy unnecessary household items, furniture, televisions, and kitchen appliances.
Some people are starting to grow fruits and vegetables in their home gardens to cope with rising food prices. A new survey by the National Gardening Association found that a third of U.S. households now grow their own food. In 2021, National Gardening Association conducted a study on gardening statistics in the United States and found that gardening participation was way up from pre-pandemic years. The National Gardening Association said almost 17 million people started growing their own food last year. Now COVID-19 has created over 18.3 million new gardeners and most of whom are millennials. Interest in gardening remains strong as gardening trends are driven by the pandemic. According to CouponBirds’ data, people in Oregon, Kansas, Montana, and Ohio showed the most interest in gardening at home.
There was a big demand for vegetables when the pandemic hit, and families that have continued growing produce since then could be saving hundreds of dollars. Back in 2009, the National Gardening Association published a report that showed a $70 initial investment in a home garden can yield on average, a $600 return on investment. And now its new survey found that the average household that grows fruits and veggies still can save about $500 a year.
Besides, more people are seeking professional help for growing food at home. National Gardening Association Executive Director Dave Whitinger said their traffic to their sites doubled from 2019 to 2020 and they were already having like 7 million visitors a year to the sites. And it raised up again in 2021 and again in 2022.
Why are more Americans choosing to grow food at home?
Although food prices are high, vegetable seeds are inexpensive, and neither are the youngest plants. For example, a package of organic cucumber seeds usually costs you $2, and you can get 30 to 40 seeds in a package. Each seed can produce about 10 cucumbers in a season. However, you should pay $1.5 to buy a cucumber in the grocery store or supermarket. So, you are expected to get $15 worth of cucumber with only a seed that costs you a nickel. The price for a tomato seedling is about $4 and you can get 10 to 20 pounds of tomatoes from it. While tomatoes currently sell from $1.39 to $3.50 a pound in stores. That means you can get at least $14 worth of tomatoes for a $4 investment. Some garden plants are perennials, meaning they come back year after year and you don’t need to spend on seeds next year.
Fresh and Healthy Food
And if you grow the plant in the right way and stick with it, you can get fresher, healthier fruits, vegetables, and products except for extra savings. As the USDA reports that about 55% of the fresh fruit consumed in the US was grown overseas and about 33% of vegetables are from overseas. And commercially grown foods cannot be as healthy and cannot taste as good as the food you will likely grow from your own soil.
Physical and Mental Health
Gardening is also beneficial to your physical and mental health. You can enjoy the sunshine to relax and get more vitamin D when you are gardening. Also, if you’ve become sedentary because of the pandemic, the excellent physical exercise provided by gardening can also be beneficial.
However, there are still some disadvantages if you are not an expert on growing food at home.
Less Expensive but More Work
Gardening is physical work and it is not always fun, especially for beginners. New gardeners at least need a tiller, a water hose, a hoe, and a rake to begin gardening. Digging, kneeling, stooping or bending over, and a variety of other repetitive movements are required and that may be harmful to your joints, your bones, and to your muscles.
You May Get in Trouble with the Law
Believe it or not, there are many municipalities that don’t permit backyards or front yards in the United States. If your neighborhood or anyone else complains about your garden, you could face a fine and be forced to give up your garden and even go to jail.
Risk of the Infection
Gardening means you have to dig into the soil and it’s the potential home to some harmful pathogens such as tetanus, Lyme disease, fungal infections, etc.
Amid the pandemic and soaring food prices, more and more people are becoming gardeners. However, it should be considered that growing food at home is not as easy as it seems. Gardeners can save extra cash and get healthy and fresh food, while they also need to make the effort to grow a garden and pay attention to avoid potential risks and disadvantages.