Drought can drive up food prices in East TN

The lack of rain across a big swath of the country is having an impact on the prices of what we buy in the store. Experts at UT expect to see an increase in food prices.

If food prices go up in categories like meat, dairy and vegetables, it could make a simple shopping trip expensive. Some are already taking a different strategy to prepare for a possible rise in prices.

It's another shopping day for Anthony Smith. He just picked up his daughter from daycare, and they checked off everything on their shopping list.

"With her she eats anything so that's a good thing," said Smith.

But a drought could change what's on Smith's list.

"I would buy TV dinners. I would probably buy some TV dinners if prices go up. It's a little bit cheaper than buying ground beef. I try usually just eating fast food but when I have her every other week, I try to go grocery shopping to save money," said Smith.

Dena Wise with the University of Tennessee Extension said that recent price rises could be a good reason to shop smarter.

"Food is a necessity and really over the last several years, middle to low income families, those who have the tightest budgets, have had very little increase in incomes. So that makes it particularly important to buy food intelligently just like they spend the rest of their money intelligently," said Wise.

This could include looking for substitutes for your everyday meats and looking for other protein replacements.

"Many families use more meat in their meals. More meat than is recommended to them. So in order to get basic nutrition, most families can reduce their intake of meat and maintain their nutritional values," said Wise.

But there is some good news from dry conditions. David Vandergriff with the UT Extension says this dry season actually is better than a super wet season.

"Most producers of crops, corn and vegetables irrigate, so they can always add water. It's actually a better scenario than last year where we had too much water. It caused losses from disease problems and flooded fields and that sort of thing, said Vandergriff.

He said more drought concerns come from items that are brought in from other parts of the country and that buying local with farmer's markets won't break the bank.

Vandergriff said that home gardeners may be impacted by drought more than anyone, because they depend on rain for their home gardens.


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