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Local Families Feeling the Pinch as Food Prices Creep Up

By Manny Otiko, IVN Staff Writer

Rancho Cucamonga, CA — Like many Americans, Dena Gray, an Alta Loma resident, has been hit with sticker shock at the grocery store. She said she’s noticed that her bi-monthly grocery bill has gone up to $300. (She’s shopping for a family of four.)

“Normally my bill was $150,” she said. 

The coronavirus pandemic has forced Americans to stay at home. And since people are staying home, they’re also cooking at home and buying more groceries. However, Gray said she’s noticed prices steadily creeping up.

According to CNN, the coronavirus lockdown and people stocking up on goods has caused a price jump.

“Panic-shopping customers are buying lots of food they don’t need to eat immediately. Some grocery stores are putting limits on purchases to keep from running out of stock completely. Others are raising prices to ration certain items, and some are passing rising costs onto consumers as they face higher costs from their suppliers,” said a CNN article. 

According to CNN, the sudden surge of buyers has caused a bottleneck in the food chain.

“Prices at the supermarket are rising sharply because coronavirus has disrupted the food supply chain: When restaurants shut down, Americans started cooking at home, and demand for groceries shot up. But food producers and farmers didn’t have the ability to quickly shift their food deliveries to grocery stores. Supply chains are super-complex beasts,” said CNN. 

Grocery prices jumped 2.6 percent in April. This is the biggest increase in one month since 1974, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.) 

The consumer price index has held steady for the last two months, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

“Food prices inched up 0.2 percent for the two months ending in March. Prices for food at home increased 0.9 percent, but prices for food away from home decreased 0.5 percent for the same period. Over the year, food prices rose 3.7 percent. Prices for food away from home advanced 5.2 percent, and prices for food at home rose 2.2 percent,” added the BLS in a press release. 

The covid-19 pandemic has definitely impacted grocery stores. There is more demand for certain products such as paper goods and disinfectant. Also, coronavirus outbreaks at meat-packing plants have been an issue and there has been talk of a meat shortage. President Donald Trump signed an executive order declaring them essential businesses and forced them to stay open. 

However, the meat-packing industry is still facing a crisis. The Center for Disease Control reported that about 5,000 meatpacking industry workers have tested positive for covid-19.  Last week a Tyson Foods plant in Iowa was forced to close after more than 20 percent of its workforce contacted the coronavirus.

Some food industry workers feel the industry is putting profit over people. 

“Too many workers are being sent back into meatpacking plants without adequate protections in place, reigniting more outbreaks in the plants and our communities,” said Nick Nemec, a farmer from South Dakota, according to Reuters. 

Gray said she’s seen prices go up in items such as meat, milk and eggs and this can be related to the dairy industry’s problems. According to a breakdown of food prices from CNN, eggs have seen the biggest price increase at 16 percent. Chicken, hot dogs, donuts and carbonated drinks all saw five percent price increases. 

Also, the coronavirus pandemic caused many people to start hoarding canned goods because they were unsure how long the crisis would last. This has caused the price of canned goods to rise. Canned goods saw a 3.6 increase, according to CNN. 

But some of the raises make no sense, such as cereal. 

“There’s no shortage of cereal,” said Gray. 

She has also changed her shopping habits to deal with the increased crowds by only shopping early in the morning or late at night. 

Gray is frustrated at the price increase but seems resigned to her fate. She said that with everything going on now, this is the least of her problems. 

“I just deal with it, even if I complain nothing is going to happen,” she said. 

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