Let Them Eat Legumes: Austerity-Crushed Greeks Changing Diet

Patates me kreas, potatoes and beef stew. (Photo by ΤΝΗ/Eleni Sakellis)

ATHENS – There’s a lot less lamb and pork and meat on the tables of many Greek families ground down by a more than eight-year-long economic and austerity crisis that has seen them resort of cheaper meal alternatives, including lentils and other other legumes.

If they can afford meat it’s chicken so they can try to keep up nutrition based on what money they have left after repeated pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings by successive governments in return for 326 billion euros ($376.94 billion) in three international bailouts.

Many Greeks now view fish, beef and lamb as luxury items only eaten on special occasions, while also dropping consumption of basics such as milk, yogurt, bread, fruit, vegetables and olive oil, said Kathimerini.

The main reason is the dramatic drop in disposable incomes because of austerity measures but especially Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, reneging on promises to protect the country’s most vulnerable, instead hitting them with an avalanche of tax hikes, including jumping the Value Added Tax (VAT) on food from 10 to 13 percent, with many foodstuffs now being taxed at 24 percent, with a special consumption tax put on basic Greek diet products of wine and coffee.

Those the findings of a study carried out by the Research Institute of Retail Consumer Goods (IELKA) on the occasion of World Food Day, which showed a 21 percent decline in the total value of food purchases from 2010 to 2017 in Greece, while the volume of food sales dropped 15 percent in the same period.

The biggest increase in terms of quantity was seen in pasta (14 percent), followed by legumes (10 percent), wine (10 percent), poultry (9 percent), rice (8 percent) and chocolate (5 percent).

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