Peanut Butter

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Has anyone else noticed the price of peanut butter lately? This week at Extra Foods I paid $11.98 for 2 kilos of the stuff. Yikes! That’s about double what it usually is. I will make an emergency grocery store trip for the following items: milk, coffee, bananas, and yes…peanut butter. Also, maybe bacon. Two thirds of our household consider it a necessity (My husband hates the stuff. Weirdo).
The price increase is apparently due to several factors. A drought in the Southern US resulted in a much small peanut crop, and many farmers planted fewer acres of peanuts since the price of cotton was higher. Others blame the “green” energy trend, where acreage normally used for food production is being planted with corn for ethanol production.

Either way, we can’t run out of the stuff. As I stood in grocery store aisle staring at the price sticker, it was all I could do to not grab every last jar on the shelf and run like mad. What if the store runs out? How much am I actually willing to spend on peanut butter? What will we eat for breakfast? AAACCCKKK!

Ok, relax. The only way they will run out of peanut butter is if everyone panics and buys more than they need. I will be a model citizen and NOT stock up on peanut butter and we will be fine. Really.

This crazy urge to panic about peanut butter got me thinking. First-this is clearly a first world problem. Although I consider peanut butter a staple, a shortage of it is not going to send my family into the streets. There are an estimated 925 million hungry people in the world and 98% of them live in developing countries. There are more hungry people in the world than the combined populations of Canada, US and the European Union. We are embarrassingly well off in this country. My concern over the supply of a ‘staple’ in our household is minor compared to those who struggle to provide food, medicine and shelter for their children on a daily basis.

Second-I realized that the manipulated or artificial scarcity of goods-whether it’s peanut butter or the latest installation of Call of Duty – might be sparked by corporations and media trying to make a buck, but it is completely fuelled by us. We decide to panic and stock up on items or services that “might” run out. We pre-order the latest electronics, movies, and video games. We buy rubber boots in February and winter coats in August. We line up before dawn to register our children for pre-school, swimming lessons and sports teams. Consider the consumer mayhem that Christmas, Halloween, or Valentine’s Day have become. We decide to give in to the hype.

So, I’ve decided NOT to stock up on peanut butter, despite the potential for scarcity and the rising panic in my chest. Pondering this issue has reminded me how lucky I am to be able to afford to feed, clothe and shelter my family. We can choose to act responsibly.

Just don’t be in my way if a world coffee shortage is ever declared.

PS: For some reason, a book I read as a child popped into my mind while writing this post. It’s called “If Everybody Did” by Jo Ann Stover. I like the picture where the cat looks all mangled because everybody kept squeezing it in the middle. I think I’ll look for it in the library tomorrow.

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