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The Rising Cost of Food

In 2008, the topic of food became quite a point of concern for many Americans. In Michigan there was discussion about the rising costs of food in local supermarkets as well as talk about the dwindling supply on the shelves of community food banks and in food reserves around the world. In the midst of all this talk, Michiganders were struggling to make sense of these changes. They were trying to understand what was causing these changes and what, if anything, they could do in response.

Faculty at Michigan State University (MSU) gathered a group of interested citizens, advocates, and university specialists to capture all the reasons given for the rising cost of food. This information was collected and presented in a small booklet, or Issue Guide. The issue guide is a tool for citizens to use to become acquainted with the most salient issues that are routinely communicated in conversations about the rising cost of food. Issues Guides prompt deliberation by laying out the key claims that are being made by various actors involved in the issue and put them in a context that are valuable to readers . A good guide is balanced, comprehensive and allows the reader a window into the worldview of others.

The strength of Issue Guides if that they help to identify, in black and white, our options and values. Issue Guides are not critical in deliberative dialogue, but when discussing highly technical matters, people often find them useful to get a firm handle on all of the divergent views that exist on a topic. The guides also present the tensions that arise among options because of the difference in the things people value. The Issue Guide developed to spark community conversations on the rising cost of food in Michigan was designed to help people sort out and then work through some of the tensions in the food system. Our hope is that it allows readers/deliberators the chance – not to reach total agreement – but to see the others perspective and perhaps identify a common direction or way forward as we search for a more sustainable food system, while mindful of the trade offs that might be necessary. You can click on the link below to access The Rising Cost of Food Issue Guide.

Using this booklet in your community may allow you to probe your values in regards to the rising cost of food, but it may also help open up a broader conversation about what kind of food system is desirable, and what kind of trade-offs we will have to make in order to get there. This Issue Guide can easily we used to ask more general questions about how we will eat in the future, regardless of price fluctuations at any given point in time. For us at MSU, we were simply using soaring supermarket prices as an entrée into this broader conversation. If changing the food system is a topic of interest to you and your community, organize a public forum where participants can deliberate this timely issue with the help of this Issue Guide.

The Rising Cost of Food (PDF file)

Organizing a Public Forum

If you are interested in organizing a public forum in your community, you can get the help you need at Michigan State University. For more information, contact Wynne Wright at wrightwy@anr.msu.edu

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