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Getting a Seat at the Dinner Table – Part 1

PeopleAtDinnerTable
PeopleAtDinnerTable

Mention the industrial food system and you’ll stir emotions over GMOs, pesticides and farmland loss. While issues rage over how food is produced – and for good reason – who will have the privilege of sitting at the table to eat this food?

The economy – of people, business, industry and politics – is organized around dollars. Food production and food purchases are a series of transactions virtually all of which are settled in dollars. The determining factor then, of who sits at the dinner table and where, is a function of who has dollars.

There are two primary activities which determine who has dollars. The first activity, which we have some control over, is how successful we are at competing for dollars. How good are we at academics, business savvy, work ethic and selling ourselves? A popular theory is that if everyone were sufficiently competitive, everyone would eat. This ignores a larger question: How do we know there are enough dollars circulating to give everyone a seat at the table?

The second activity is something we have little control over. It is the activities that put dollars into circulation. The roles dollars must play – 1) A store of value, 2) A tool of wealth extraction 3) A medium of exchange – thoroughly conflict with each other. The forces that take dollars out of circulation are as prevalent as the forces calling on the dollar to feed everyone. The situation is partly explained in a booklet published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago called Modern Money Mechanics (page3).

“Money, like anything else, derives its value from its scarcity in relation to its usefulness.”

So what kinds of useful things must dollars be scare for in order to give value to dollars? Dollars that are useful in getting a seat at the American dinner table must be scarce. So what does a dinner table look like that is subjected to a scarcity of dollars?

Today, 17 out of every 100 people are food insecure. This means that there are 83 people with a seat. The other 17 are scavenging the floor for crumbs that fall off or are handed down off the table. America has 50 million food-insecure who frequent food banks (the food that falls or is handed off the table).

dollar-bill-portion

For the 83 sitting at the table, 63 of them (our estimate) can ill afford higher quality foods. Their “dollar” situation directs them into cheap processed foods with lower nutritional value and loaded with substances not normally occurring in food.

While this seems abruptly sobering, in Part II we will explore how Americans (and the Federal Reserve) are reacting to the American dinner table scenario. Not everything America does is wrong and Americans are not without more cards to play.

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