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Rising Grocery Prices, Rising Hunger

As the cost of food skyrockets, many families are struggling to afford food and other necessities, and food banks are having to fill in the gap. Without federal assistance, the hunger crisis in the U.S. will worsen.

May 10, 2022 | By Fleurian Filkins, 28th Class Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellow

Each Week, Cindy and her sister carpool to a nearby food pantry distribution to help feed their families. 

Do I pay to keep the lights on, or do I pay rent on time this month?

Do I buy gas to get to work or risk running out of fuel to buy enough food to feed my family this week?

Those are the types of tough choices that millions of people in America are forced to make every day — and those choices are only getting harder as groceries become more expensive. As families struggle to stretch a budget that doesn’t buy as much as it did last year, many are turning to food banks to meet their nutritional needs.

Food banks are providing critical support to communities in need, but they’re not immune to the consequences of rising costs. Soaring prices are making it harder to afford the food and operational costs that make it possible for food banks to support our neighbors facing hunger. With need for food expected to grow as pandemic-era food programs sunset, it’s clear that the status quo is unsustainable. Federal assistance is needed to ensure no family goes hungry and food banks can continue serving everyone who needs help.


Many of Our Neighbors Are Struggling Amidst Changes to Government Assistance Programs and Rising Food Costs

The pandemic continues to be tough on families, especially Black, Hispanic, and Native American families and families in rural areas, with many households with children struggling to afford food and other basics. Temporary expansions to government assistance programs have provided vital support throughout much of the pandemic. However, some of those expansions have already ended, and others, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) emergency allotments, will go away nationwide when the Public Health Emergency (PHE) declaration ends. Some states have already chosen to end SNAP emergency allotments, leading to a projected average loss of $82 a month in benefits for those enrolled. Many families are struggling to adjust to these changes, and rising costs are only making things harder.

It costs families 10% more to buy groceries this year. Nationally, the cost of meat, poultry, fish, and eggs has increased by 13.7%. Households that are low-income already spend about one-third of their income on food. Even relatively small increases in food prices can destabilize budgets and force families to make impossible choices between food and other necessities. Increased food prices also mean that nutrition program benefits, like those received through SNAP, don’t buy as much. To survive skyrocketing costs at the supermarket and reduced government assistance program benefits and access, many families are turning to food banks.

Food Banks Are Filling the Gap, but They’re Feeling the Squeeze of Rising Costs, Too

Food banks play a key role in ensuring that families don’t go hungry, but they are struggling to adapt to increased demand and costs.

In February, about 85% of the 200 food banks in Feeding America’s network reported increased or sustained demand for food assistance compared to the previous month. While food banks hustle to serve the growing number of families in need, skyrocketing prices limit their ability to meet elevated demand.

Food banks are paying about 40% more to purchase nearly the same amount of food acquired in 2021. Outside of food costs, food banks are also paying more for the costs of everything from fuel to vehicle maintenance. Simultaneously, 55% of Feeding America food banks have recently reported that food donations are down. Federal support is needed to make sure food banks can continue serving our communities.

Families and Food Banks Need Help from Lawmakers

Families are turning to food banks to ensure they have food during this challenging time, but food banks cannot fill in the gap alone. We need support from Congress and the United States Department of Agriculture to continue supporting families facing hunger as ever more challenges threaten to exacerbate rates of food insecurity. Tell lawmakers how they can help!

📈 With rising food prices, it’s vital that lawmakers support families in need and food banks. @hunger explores the impact of skyrocketing costs on families and food banks and shares ways that lawmakers can help: