Tasneem Raja, Interactive Editor

Tasneem Raja

Interactive Editor

Tasneem Raja is MoJo's Interactive Editor. She specializes in web app production, interactive graphics, and user interface design. Before joining Mother Jones, she was an interactive producer at The Bay Citizen. Before crossing over to the dark side, she was a features reporter and copyeditor at The Chicago Reader.

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The Spinach Index: A Delicious Economic Indicator

| Wed Jan. 25, 2012 1:19 PM PST

Here's a tasty indicator of the country's economic health: Are you buying spinach in a bunch or in a bag?

Last year, the USDA's research wing looked at how spending habits at the grocery store changed from 2004 to 2009, and noticed some predictable patterns during the recession. Shoppers ditched name-brand, designer-label products for store-brand knockoffs (think Kellogg's Lucky Charms vs. Ralph's Magic Stars) to the record-breaking tune of 810 new off-label products appearing on the shelves in 2009—7 times more than in 2001—with sales outpacing those of name-brand products. Warehouse clubs and supercenters, like Sam's Club and Aldi, jumped 2 percent in total share of food sales during the recession, while traditional stores continued a long-term decline. Overall, food spending declined 5% between 2006 and 2009 (inflation adjusted), according to the USDA. 

You might guess that shoppers also cut back on healthy, fresh foods in favor of cheaper packaged items, but the USDA looked closely at one nutritious item—leafy greens—and noticed an interesting consumer trend.

Whenever personal household incomes dropped by 1 percent from 2004 through 2009, the sales share of bagged leafy greens—the convenient pre-packed stuff that's washed, chopped, and dried for you—immediately dropped by 1 percent. But the overall sales of fresh spinach, lettuce, and and other leafy greens stayed flat during the recession, because each 1 percent decline in household income also saw a nearly immediate 1 percent jump in the sales share of loose, bunched greens, the kind you weigh and buy in bulk.

The USDA researchers were surprised to see how closely and quickly changes in the national economy impacted the way shoppers adjusted their spinach-shopping habits, and they re-ran the study after making sure they were measuring the edible portions of bagged greens and bulk greens equally, getting the same results. Shoppers were willing to forgo the convenience and time savings of pre-packed as times got tougher, but they wanted to keep the same amount of leafy greens in their diet. They did it by reaching for the colander and the cutting board instead of the plastic-wrapped stuff. The cost savings are enormous, after all: on average, convenience greens cost 300 percent more than the old-fashioned kind. 

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Occupy Calendar: Check Out #OWS' Jam-Packed Schedule

| Mon Dec. 5, 2011 3:30 AM PST

Occupiers are going to need a spring break, judging from the packed winter itinerary of national protests being planned under the Occupy Wall Street banner. The movement's "Beyond the Park" faction may think it's time to stop erecting tent cities in public spaces, but if these plans all pan out, the Capitol Lawn could be booked through May Day. Check out this calender of events for what some are calling Occupy's "Valley Forge moment."

December 5-9: Occupy Congress
A coalition of labor and progressive groups plans to camp out in DC and "Occupy Congress" in what could be the biggest coordination yet between union officials and Occupy activists. Service Employees International Union is helping secure buses and housing for thousands of protesters from around the country and rallying support through MassUnited, the SEIU-backed group best known for the "Bobblehead Brown" campaign targeting Gov. Scott Brown of Massachusetts.*

Fri Apr. 11, 2014 3:00 AM PDT
Wed Aug. 28, 2013 3:00 AM PDT
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Sat Nov. 3, 2012 3:03 AM PDT
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Wed Oct. 3, 2012 8:35 AM PDT
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Fri May. 11, 2012 2:21 AM PDT
Fri Nov. 18, 2011 3:30 AM PST
Tue Nov. 15, 2011 5:24 PM PST
Sat Oct. 29, 2011 3:00 AM PDT
Wed Oct. 26, 2011 3:05 PM PDT
Wed Oct. 26, 2011 3:00 AM PDT
Sun Oct. 16, 2011 12:25 AM PDT
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Sun Sep. 11, 2011 3:00 AM PDT