There are two grocery stores in my neighborhood. One features soft lighting, spacious aisles, and well-labeled shelves of neatly stacked items. The other is a chaos of glaring fluorescence, where you’re likely to get sideswiped by another shopper’s overstuffed cart as you swerve between haphazard piles of random food products. But when I compared my receipts, I realized that at the second store, whose motto is “more for your dollar,” I bought about 20 percent more groceries for the exact same price.
When graphic designer Jessica Erickson and I set out to create an infographic, see left, about US food aid spending, we decided to model it on the humble grocery store receipts that we all keep tucked away in our wallets. As consumers, we keep track of what we’re buying in order to make sure we’re spending our money wisely. The food aid our tax dollars buy is no different. The facts show that we’re currently spending more on special interest regulations—shipping, overhead, and other government red tape—than we are on life-saving food itself. Rather than more for our dollars, we’re actually getting less.
Every day, we make choices about where we shop so we can get the best value for our money. Now we should ask our legislators to do the same. By cutting the red tape and purchasing food aid locally in developing countries, we can save millions more lives, make the world safer, and boost local businesses, too. All of which adds up to a value that’s pretty much priceless.