Dem pollster: ‘Foodflation’ will be issue in next election (The Fence Post)

Jerry Hagstrom
April 4, 2024

This article originally appeared in The Fence Post on April 4, 2024.


A prominent Democratic pollster said Wednesday that food inflation — sometimes called “foodflation” — will be an issue in the 2024 elections.

“Inflation writ large is going to be a dominant theme throughout this election,” Jonathan Voss, a partner in the polling firm of Lake Research Partners, said at the Consumer Federation of America National Food Policy Conference in Washington, D.C.

“For a lot of people, price really does matter,” Voss said, adding that the issue is most compelling when it comes to food and gas.

When Gallup polls Americans about food, the cost of food is the most important issue, followed by food quality; third is food waste. On food waste, people are interested in avoiding it to save money, he added.

“It is real, it is very top of mind,” he said.

Voss, whose firm advises President Biden and Democratic congressional candidates, said that he has been advising candidates to “position” themselves on the issue.

Voss spoke on a panel titled The Politics of Food Policy.

Voss said that polls show 75% of Americans support the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which provides low-income people with purchasing power to buy food. That 75% is divided between 85% among Democrats and 65% among Republicans, he added.

Support for nutrition programs has grown since the pandemic when so many people saw that others needed food, he added.

But despite this level of favorability, there are politicians who want to “denigrate” SNAP for political purposes, he said. Since President Reagan campaigned using criticism of welfare recipients, “there has been an intentional weaponization of these programs to turn people away from government, to divide and conquer,” he added.

Those campaigns used to be “anti-Black,” he said, but now they are anti-immigrant. Some Republicans talk about people who have been bused to New York City and given free hotel rooms, he noted.

Other panelists talked about how the controversy over domestic food aid affects the farm bill and politics.

Abby Leibman, president and CEO of Los Angeles-based MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, said, “Our national nutrition safety net is an amazing system,” but that MAZON focuses on people who slip through its cracks including single mothers, military families, LGBT seniors, people who live in Puerto Rico and the other U.S. territories and undocumented people.

“Our job is to respond to need without judgment, working to make programs more universally available and as broad as possible,” she said. When people don’t get SNAP or other nutrition benefits, they must rely on the charitable food system, which is “incredibly limited,” she said.

Leibman added that the Biden administration’s rewrite of the Thrifty Food Plan, which is used to set SNAP benefits, was vital because it revealed that the cost of a healthy diet is much higher than previously understood.

MAZON, Leibman said, does not support restrictions on SNAP, but does support incentives for people to buy healthier foods.

SNAP beneficiaries who buy boxes of macaroni and cheese and other boxed foods rather than fresh vegetables and fruits are making “rational financial choices” because those foods last while fruits and vegetables are perishable, she said.

Restricting foods on SNAP would not solve the obesity problem in the United States, she said, because there are 86 million people who are obese and only about 40 million SNAP beneficiaries.


Ricardo Salvador, director and senior scientist for the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said that healthy food is expensive to produce and that the real problem is that wages are too low for people to afford it.

Americans spend only about 11% of their incomes on food, but for the lowest-income people, who number 67 million, the cost is more than 30% of their incomes. He noted that a USDA report released this week showed that the most food insecure are Native Americans and said that is a direct result of a policy that began centuries ago with the takeover of their land.

Salvador said that instead of having a food policy for the American people, the country has a food policy that exploits nature and people for agribusiness profit.

Aaliyah Nedd, director of government relations for the National Cooperative Business Association, said that the continuing conflict over SNAP means that Congress cannot focus on other farm bill programs that are needed to help people in rural America.

“A strong nutrition policy helps producers,” she added.

Asked by Colin O’Neil, senior director of public policy and social impact at Bowery Farming, who moderated the panel, if they believe the farm bill will pass this year, Leibman, Nedd and Salvador signaled they believe Congress is too dysfunctional to pass it. Voss said there have been “moments” when Congress has passed vital legislation.