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Food Is A Big Expense In Raising Children

Food Is A Big Expense In Raising Children

The USDA recently released its annual report, “Expenditures on Children and Families,” which studies the cost of raising a child. According to the report, a middle-income family with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend a whopping $245,340 for food, housing, childcare, education and other child-rearing expenses from birth to age 18.

I was a little shocked at the number, having recently had a baby myself. But it seems the numbers might be a little inflated.

Blogger Johnny Moneyseed is calling B.S. on the figures, stating that people don’t have to buy a bigger house or better car to have babies. They don’t have to send their kids to private schools. They can choose in-home daycare vs. more costly daycare centers. They can make their own baby food instead of buying. And they can save on clothes by buying second-hand items.


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Inflated figures or not, as Feedstuffs points out in a recent article entitled "Food among top 3 expenses of raising kids," feeding our children is a major expense, whether we like it or not. Growing kids take a lot of groceries!

According to the article, “For middle-income families, housing costs are the single largest expenditure on a child, averaging 30% of the total cost. Child care and education was the second-largest expense at 18%, followed by food, which accounted for 16% of the total cost. The food budget shares ranged between 17-25% for a child in a two-child, husband-wife family and 25-34% for a child in a two-child, single-parent family (these shares being higher for a three-person household). Food budget shares generally increased with the age of the child and did not vary much by household income level, the report notes.”

In America, we are accustomed to spending less than 10% of our disposable income on food. Our safe and abundant food supply makes eating well affordable here in the U.S. Lately, however, you might have noticed that your dollar doesn’t go quite as far in the grocery store as it used to. Sometimes, I leave the grocery store with just a few bags and a $100 receipt and marvel at how much food seems to cost these days.

Nevertheless, America still has the most affordable and abundant food supply in the world. For example, according to The Economist, Americans spend less than 10% of total household spending on food, whereas Egyptians spend close to 45% of their household incomes on groceries.

Yet, as consumers, we whine and complain about every aspect of our food system. Consumers are demanding more transparency, more information, more regulations on farmers and ranchers, as well as reduced use of modern technologies and more grass-fed, all-natural, organic options in the grocery store.

These options are wonderful if one can afford them, but we have to ask ourselves if we can feed a growing planet this way and still spend less than 10% on food? My guess is today’s consumers also value their big homes, late-model cars and fun vacations -- all luxuries that could become out of reach for many families if 45% of household income was going toward food. At the end of the day, America's food supply is safe and still affordable; for that, I think we can all be grateful.

This is just some food for thought (pun intended) this morning, and I would love to hear your opinions on this. Do you think raising kids really costs a quarter-of-a-million dollars? Do you think we are headed for higher-priced food in America? How high is too high before U.S. citizens balk? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or the Penton Farm Progress Group.


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