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Volunteers needed for grocery price survey program

—By Kathleen M. Dutro
Media Relations Specialist
Public Relations Team

There’s an easy, low-stress way for a member to be involved in one of Farm Bureau’s most effective public and media relations efforts.

It’s called the “market basket survey,” and its most obvious purpose is to allow state Farm Bureaus and the American Farm Bureau Federation to produce news releases on food prices, releases that are very popular with media.

The release on the Thanksgiving survey is one of the most widely-run news releases that IFB sends out all year. Many newspapers and radio stations run the releases word for word as I send them out, but many also call me or IFB 2nd Vice President Isabella Chism for more information on the surveys and their findings. We get questions on everything from “Why did turkey go down in the Indiana survey but up in the national survey?” to “How can people save money on their grocery bills?”

But the more subtle purpose of the market basket program is to help reporters – and their readers – see the connection between the food they buy and the farmers who produce it.

Indiana Farm Bureau is currently looking for members who are willing to become “volunteer shoppers”: individuals who commit to going to a local grocery store four times per year, writing down the prices of a list of items, and then sending that list to IFB’s home office.

Once here, the individual results are averaged to create a list of statewide averages, and the data is also sent to AFBF to be included in the nationwide survey.

In return, the members will receive the grateful thanks of Isabella as well as the IFB public relations team – particularly me, since I’m the one who writes the market basket news releases.

Isabella and I really appreciate the strong participation of individual members – Indiana is one of the top states in terms of total number of volunteer shoppers – that allows us to speak with some confidence about food prices in Indiana.

There are also more tangible ways that we say “thank you.” Each time volunteers participate, they have their names entered into a drawing for a $50 gift card.

Of the four annual surveys, the most prominent is the Thanksgiving survey, which has been conducted annually since 1986. The 12 items on the shopping list for this survey consist of the fixings for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, including a 16-pound turkey, stuffing mix, cranberries and so on.

Two of the surveys are known as the “semi-annual surveys.” While some details of these surveys (including the frequency and some of the items) have been altered over the years to keep them current, they’ve been conducted since 1989. The semi-annual surveys are performed in the spring and the fall.

The next survey is the newest in Farm Bureau’s repertoire: the summer cookout survey. People who are interested finding out more about becoming a volunteer shopper for this survey should contact Ashley Beasley, 317-692-7830, abeasley@infarmbureau.org. Participants will have the week of June 7-15 to collect prices on the food items that are part of this survey and send them in to Beasley by mail or email. The news release on this survey will be released just before Independence Day.

On a personal note, I’d like to thank the many volunteers who have contributed to this program since 1995, which is when I first came to work at Farm Bureau and took on the job of writing these releases. You may not realize how important your contribution has been and continues to be. Perhaps to you, it just seems like a minor little chore.

But what you have actually been doing is giving Farm Bureau an opportunity to talk to reporters and consumers about food and farmers. That’s an important opportunity, and as your media relations specialist, I never cease to be grateful for it.

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