Newest Luxury Food: Peanut Butter

As climate change continues on its seemingly unstoppable path, it has claimed America’s food banks and pantries as its latest victims. The reason? The rising cost of peanut butter.

This year, high heat and drought conditions in Texas and the Southeast caused a 30 percent spike in the price of peanut butter. And that, in turn, has made it more difficult for food banks to meet the high demand for peanut butter. Kid-friendly, resistant to spoilage, and compatible with most religious restrictions, it has long had a reputation as the poor man’s protein; during the Great Depression, it was successfully marketed as an affordable alternative to meat. It’s no accident that, according to the USDA, peanut butter consumption in U.S. households has risen 10 percent since 2008.

So this latest chapter in peanut butter’s history is as ironic as it is mean: The president and CEO of one Cleveland food bank told the Washington Post that if peanut butter becomes as costly as some kinds of meat, meat might actually prove to be the better deal. Adding insult to injury, higher prices have resulted in less peanut butter being made available through the USDA’s commodities program, which buys surpluses of it and other foods and distributes them to nonprofits and schools.

This time of year, of course, is when we’re asked to think of those less fortunate. Barring new jobs or a moratorium on home foreclosures, a jar of Skippy could prove to be the gift most likely to keep on giving.

Image source: Peanut butter image from Shutterstock