San Francisco

Gallon of Milk for $24.40? Campaign Uses Sticker Shock To Highlight Bay Area Poverty

Twenty five dollars for a small case of spinach; $27.45 for a box of butter; $66.85 for a loaf of bread. 

Those grocery store item prices may seem outrageous, but for some Bay Area dwellers, the agony behind those price tags are a reality.

Teaming up to raise awareness about the Bay Area poverty struggle, the non-profit organization Tipping Point Community joined advertising agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners to simulate the taxing experience that poverty-stricken families face every day: footing a grocery bill that — in comparison to the average Bay Area family — is five times as damaging.

Customers grabbing groceries in San Francisco's affluent Nob Hill neighborhood were targets of the video campaign stunt, which was rolled out in November. When everyday grocery prices were raised by 500 percent, jaw-dropping and eye-popping reactions ensued.

"$50 for soup?" one customer depicted in the video questioned. "That's a f------ joke."

Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Tipping Point Community and GS&P came to find that the median Bay Area family income in 2015 was $153,000, which, after taxes, is roughly five times the amount that folks living at the federal poverty line — $24,300 a year — bring in. Thus, the five fold number came into being and the organizers of the campaign realized that a grocery bill burns a much deeper hole in the pocket of a family struggling to make ends meet.

Aside from educating the public, generating some empathy for the less fortunate was one of the chief objectives of the campaign.

"When you make people stop and think about what they're paying for, it kind of hits you in the gut and makes you think,” said Daniel Lurie, Tipping Point Community’s CEO and founder.

Richard Silverstein, the co-chairman of GS&P, added that "we wanted everyday people to feel the pain but not in a mean way.”

Those points were certainly pushed home when five hidden cameras inside the San Francisco market captured the shoppers’ uncut emotions.

"There's a special today, it's "Poverty Line Prices,'" the undercover clerk told one stunned shopper in the video. "Everything is five times its normal cost."

"Excuse me," the shopper quipped as he jerked forward to peer at the advertised "special."

From classrooms in Virginia to people across the country in Florida, the video has been viewed and shared by droves of folks using social media, according to Lurie. 

The campaign organizers hope to seize that momentum moving forward, understanding full well that work still needs to be done to combat the plight of poverty. Among the tasks at hand is the need to hammer home the point that people need to realize and understand that there is a stark contrast between the haves and the have-nots in this nation, most notably in the Bay Area.

"It is a tale of two cities," Silverstein said. "It is the best of times. It is the worst of times."

To donate to Tipping Point, click here.

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