Sandwiched between Groundhog Day and Valentine's Day is the little-known Food Check-Out Day sponsored by the American Farm Bureau.
Similar to its better-known cousin, Tax Freedom Day -- the day when the average American earns enough to cover government taxes for the year -- Food Check-Out Day celebrates the average American's ability to earn enough disposable income to pay for a year's supply of food in about 40 days. This year, Food Check-Out Day falls on Feb. 5.
"The major part of income doesn't go to food," said Ronald Lawton, a Moffat County Farm Bureau Board member. "The cost of food is pretty economical."
The Moffat County Farm Board is a volunteer group that tracks agriculture legislation and needs. It's a branch of the American Farm Bureau.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports the average American devotes 10 percent of his or her disposable income to pay for food.
United States per-capita income in 2000 was $29,469, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. And the Economic Resource Service reports it costs $3,121 to feed the average American.
In contrast to those figures, Moffat County per-capita income was $19,023 in 2000, and a single Moffat County resident with no children spent $3,312 on food, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures.
So Food Check-Out Day may arrive in Moffat County a little later than in the rest of the country.
All the same, food costs Americans much less than taxes, the Farm Bureau reports. Tax Freedom Day, sponsored by the Tax Foundation, recognizes the date by which the average American has earned enough money to pay their taxes. It usually takes place in April.
Lawton said the point of Food Check-Out Day is to recognize the efforts of farmers and ranchers, who keep food cheap in this country.
"It's been a good many years since agriculture has been a thriving business," he said. "It's a good way to go broke."
Often, a member of the Farm Board will commemorate the day by filling a grocery cart with groceries at a local store. The board member will post the total grocery cost, as compared to the total food cost. Farm Board member Glenda Bellio said it's surprising how much money is spent at the grocery store on non-food items.
If someone buys food staples instead of prepared foods, food costs drop even more, she said.
"In a lot of countries, people work year round and still can't afford food," said Steve Andrew, Farm Board member. "The main purpose is to make people aware you've got it pretty good in this country."
Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.