I kind of wish they’d toned down the High Drama String Quartet music in the accompanying video, but a local nonprofit called Tipping Point took over a Nob Hill grocery store last week, running “specials” that quintupled the price of staples like butter, tea, and eggs, to emphasize the Bay Area’s obscene disparities in the cost of living.
The experiment is called Poverty Line Prices, and gets its math from the region’s average income ($150,000), which is a little more than five times the federal poverty line for a family of four. Naturally, patrons are confused, and a more than a little angry. One woman asks,”Everything is five times more?” and you can hear how her voice sounds wounded, as if she’s afraid she might have to put some stuff back on the shelves.
One in 10 people in the Bay Area struggles to afford basic items at the grocery store, so Tipping Point’s site includes a sliding income calculator that shows how expensive it is to be poor. And it’s not just about food, either. The advertising special also notes that community college books, which were $584, are now $2,827. A $73 bus ticket is now $353.37.
So as you’re asking for a second helping of dark meat on Thursday, think about how expensive that bird really was for the almost 800,000 Bay Area residents who live below the federal poverty line, currently $11,800 for a single person and a measly $24,300 for a family of four.