As if the total at the gas pump wasn’t stressful enough, with the average cost between $5 and $6 per gallon, many say their pockets are hurting at the grocery store checkout line.
While some consumers see bacon going for around $10 a pound and $6 for butter, prices for other items like dairy, and eggs are also going up.
Breakfast cereal prices rose 2.4% monthly and 9.2% from a year ago. Rice, pasta and cornmeal increased 2.8% monthly and 9.3% annually. And fresh biscuits, rolls and muffins rose 2.5% monthly and 10.8% from a year ago.
This comes as bad news for Salinas resident Esmeralda Lopez, who says she already struggles with the cost of feeding her young child.
“My little boy likes to eat eggs every morning, which means I have to constantly buy those egg cartons, but it adds up and it’s so expensive now,” Lopez said. “We have to keep buying stuff but then that doesn’t always last because some food spoils quickly.”
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, things are not changing any time soon.
In fact, the USDA’s Food Prices Outlook for 2022 March report predicts food prices will only continue to go higher. The only food category costs predicted to go downward are fresh vegetables.
Food costs highest in decades; restaurants feeling pinch too
Grocery prices rose close to 9% for the year, making them the highest they’ve been in decades. They are expected to rise another 3% to 4% in the months ahead.
What’s more is that the USDA predicts the cost of dining out will also go up by 5.5% to 6.5%
Eddie Estrada, owner of Emma’s Bakery, says this doesn’t just impact customers, but restaurant owners as well. Estrada says that while his business has not raised prices for customers, it’s affecting income.
“The chicken, for example, we went from $46 a case to $127, butter went from like $36 a case to $126 so everything is just like three- or four-times fold,” he said. “Bottom line is it does affect us here and it’s just taking away from our profit.”
Estrada says he is avoiding having to raise prices for customers as long as he can.
Residents fear no end is in sight for price hikes as inflation continues. Some said they are hoping government assistance will come in the form of another stimulus check or Pandemic EBT (Cal Fresh) for families in-need.
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Lopez says she is most concerned with how and if federal assistance would help locals without legal status.
Census data for 2021 shows roughly 30% of the population in Monterey County is foreign-born. The percentage in Salinas alone was at more than 37% in 2019.
“I don’t get food stamps and I know people can apply for assistance, but it’s harder for some people, especially immigrants,” Lopez said. “When they go through the process to try to change their immigrant status, their history of receiving government assistance is looked at and people are afraid because they don’t want that to come back and affect them.”
USAT reporter Paul Davidson contributed to this report.