Consumer Food Dollar

November 23, 1966

Report Outline
Revolt Against High Prices of Food
Supermarkets and the Price of Food
Food Processing and Consumer Food Bill
Special Focus

Revolt Against High Prices of Food

Boycotting of supermarkets by housewives in the autumn of 1966 introduced an unexpected and, some say, irrational element into the complex network of food marketing practices that bear on the cost of feeding the American family. The reaction of the big stores was prompt. Many of them quickly knocked down prices of key grocery items, even as store officials protested that their margins of profit were already too slim. It remains to be seen whether the women's effort to bring economic pressure on the retailer—an apparently spontaneous movement which spread across the country with little sparking from established consumer organizations—will have a lasting effect on established food pricing mechanisms.

At the very least, the housewives' protest has served to remind politicians, as well as the food industry, of the explosive character of popular discontent with rising food prices. Repercussions of the buyer revolt, should it continue and reach appreciable proportions, might conceivably ripple out to touch on government policy in major areas of action ranging from price supports to foreign aid. It is more likely that the most significant effect of the shoppers' uprising will be a new form of adult education: Everyone now wants to give the woman behind the grocery cart a lesson in the economics of the food market. Should the 90th Congress, to convene on Jan 10, 1967, decide to embark on a full-dress investigation of food prices, public attention no doubt would be directed to price-boosting factors not widely recognized by the ultimate consumer.

Spread of the Boycotting of Supermarkets

The housewives' revolt against high food prices began in Denver last September with the formation of a group called Housewives for Lower Food Prices. The women at first set out to gather signatures on petitions condemning high prices and demanding an official investigation. As grocery prices continued to climb, support for the movement grew and the group adopted more aggressive tactics. On Oct. 17, with a membership reputed to be as high as 100,000, the Housewives began boycotting stores of five major supermarket chains in the area.

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