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The high price of a sandwich!
Versatile peanut butter is a hit with kids and parents
The popular peanut butter and jelly sandwich may become even more popular as food prices continue rising. Studies show consumers turn to peanut butter in slow economic times. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

The high cost of food staples are forcing parents to look for simple, nutritional - and most importantly, affordable - ways to feed their families.

And peanut butter is one of those magical, dollar-stretching foods that many folks reach for in tough times.

Historically, during bouts with a slow economy, demand for peanut butter - and the peanuts that make it - rises, according to Leslie Wagner, the executive director of the Peanut Advisory Board.

Wagner said there was a 5.9 percent increase in peanut sales for peanut butter in the month of April alone.

"I would say it is a pretty significant jump," she said. "There had been 0.9 percent increase over the last nine months. Whereas you are looking at a 5.9 percent increase in April, in one month."

The Peanut Advisory Board, based in Canton, represents peanut farmers in Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. Peanuts contribute $2 million to Georgia's economy each year. This includes all the business that goes into peanut farming and the 1.5 million pounds of goobers that are farmed in 80 counties on 14,000 farms, Wagner said.

There are two reasons for the increase in peanut sales, Wagner said: versatility and health benefits.

"First of all, 85 percent of American homes have a jar of peanut butter on the shelf," she said. "You know your kids are going to eat it, you know everyone is going to eat it because it's one of the most popular foods out there.

"There's not very many foods that you can eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack that could be part of a dessert or part of a soup; it's almost like there's no limit to what you can do with it."

And along with the versatility comes plenty of reasons why folks should add more peanut butter to their diet.

"It is a good source of protein," said Barbara Stahnke, Women, Infants and Children program manager for Hall County. "Vitamin E in terms of heart health and the protein is real important for growth and development. Peanut butter is an excellent, inexpensive source of protein for these kids and also for anybody."

And it can benefit adults, too.

"It also is an excellent source of protein for helping with diabetes, maintenance of stable blood sugar control, because it impacts how the food is absorbed as well as it gives you some protein and fat versus all carbs," she said.

Stahnke added that peanut butter is beneficial in everyone's diet because of the "possible role it has in preventing heart disease," she said.

According to The Peanut Institute, two tablespoons of smooth style peanut butter with salt has 188 calories and 8 grams of protein.

That is why Gwen Pierce, owner of the Oakwood Learning Center for close to 22 years, uses the kid-friendly spread to feed lunch to the school's 53 students.

"We usually have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches about once a week or two weeks and then of course we have peanut butter crackers for snacks," she said.

Other items served at the Oakwood Learning Center that go a long way to feed a lot include macaroni and cheese and spaghetti.

Pierce also said she's not surprised that peanut butter sales have gone up since she hears parents concerned about food costs every day.

"That's all we hear - groceries and gas, that's it," she said.

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