The subject of the state of the economy is the fodder of every media outlet these days and the air swirls with predictions both optimistic and ominous. What’s the extent of the damage? When will things start to turn around? Who knows the right course of action to take?

Lots of answers are being offered to these questions, but for most working Americans, the situation is not as complicated as the many factors that may be at play. It’s all too simple—many people have lost net worth, employment, or both, and job losses are at historical highs. Things in Dane County may be somewhat insulated relative to less prosperous pockets of the American economy, but there can be no doubt that the press is being felt here, too.

A textbook result of a weakening economy is the effect on restaurants and other prepared foods-related businesses. American consumers traditionally make cuts in eating out as one of the first ways to stanch a bleeding household income, falling back on home cooking or canned prepared foods to replace the expensive convenience of sit-down or takeout restaurant meals. I do this the same as anyone else, despite my fondness for, and professional interest in, eating out.

One of the reasons the food service sector has grown so rapidly in recent decades is the increasing number of working hours required for a household to maintain a basic level of functioning income. Stagnating or declining real wages over the course of many years have left fewer and fewer hours for the upkeep of traditional household activities like sewing, gardening, canning and cooking. Admittedly, it has probably been several generations since most urban households have been at these things as a matter of regular practice, but they were once the backbone of thrift in the American home.

So.....what if you have lost hours at work? What if you’ve had to take on another job to compensate for lost income? What if you’re looking for work or have had to assume extra childcare duties to stand in for a co-parent who has left the home to find work? This may be the worst possible time to try to take on new and possibly unfamiliar household duties like cooking every meal to save.

Meeting you halfway

We are more than aware that our Kitchen product carries a price tag—due to our ingredient choices and commitment to our staff benefits—that can make the choice to shop our Deli consistently a challenge to your other financial obligations. While we strive to get across a product that justifies that choice, we are all feeling the strain and we are not too proud to realize that we need to make an effort to meet our customers halfway so they can continue to shop with us. Here’s what we’ve decided to do to help you stick with us while the nation gets well:

I have, in conjunction with the Deli manager, identified our existing catalog of cold case products that fall in the $3.99-$5.99 per lb. price range. We are also in the process of developing roughly two-dozen new offerings that meet this price target. Starting in January and continuing throughout the year, we will ensure that the case contains at least half a dozen of these selections at any given time and that they are grouped together for easy identification. We aim to present food in this price range made with the same high standards-and, of course, still with all-organic fresh produce and all-Wisconsin dairy—of any salad in the case. We hope this will allow busy and financially strained consumers the ability to maintain their commitment to health and nutrition while weathering this recession. We hope you will find this section of our offerings easy to find and enjoy and perhaps a welcome relief from the pressure of saving by cooking everything at home. As always, we welcome your comments on how we can meet our goals for this program successfully and help you and your family shop at our Deli without breaking your budget.

Increasing the organics

As a restaurant chef, it always bothered me that organics seemed to be reserved for the well-heeled and that farmers were being turned into spokesmodels for glossy green-conscious magazines. One of the most rewarding aspects of making the switch to my job here has been that I’ve been able to maintain—and increase—the percentage of organics I work with while serving a larger and more diverse clientele. I consider it my highest responsibility to continue that objective and, at this critical and frightening time in our national life, to bring all our resources to bear on keeping our shoppers with us and healthy. A votre sante.