As food prices continue to rise, consumers around the country are being forced to adjust their habits and aid agencies are ramping up support. Overall, food prices were 4.6 percent higher in September than a year ago, driven largely by surging prices for meat, poultry and fish, which were up 10.4 percent, according to the Consumer Price Index.
Pulled by strong meat prices, September food prices were 4.6 percent higher than a year ago, said the Labor Department on Wednesday. The monthly Consumer Price Index report said the annual U.S. inflation rate was 5.4 percent in September, compared with 5.3 percent in the preceding month.
The pandemic and its accompanying economic slowdown prompted a dramatic 7.8 percent cutback in consumer spending on food in 2020, said two USDA economists. The reduction was more than double the impact of the Great Recession on food sales, partly because the pandemic temporarily shut down most of the food service sector.
Beef prices were 12 percent higher than a year ago, helping to drive overall food prices upward, said the Labor Department on Tuesday. The monthly Consumer Price Index report said food prices were 3.7 percent higher but the U.S. inflation rate slowed slightly in August.
Americans will see the second year in a row of larger-than-usual food price increases, with food inflation now forecast at 3.5 percent this year, following the pandemic-driven 3.4 percent increase of 2020, said USDA economists on Thursday.
Meals at full-service restaurants cost 4.3 percent more than a year ago and prices at fast food outlets soared by 6.6 percent, said the Labor Department's monthly report on inflation. The increases were the largest for either category since record-keeping began on them in 1996, said the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Consumer prices rose by a larger-than-expected 5.4 percent over the past year, the biggest 12-month increase in the U.S. inflation rate since August 2008, said the Labor Department on Tuesday. Prices for restaurant meals, carry-out food, food from vending machines, and snacks were up by a strong 4.2 percent as the food service sector reopened after pandemic restrictions.
After increasing for 12 months in a row during the pandemic, international food prices are the highest they've been since September 2011, said the monthly Food Price Index, released on Thursday. The index surged 4.8 percent in May, its largest monthly increase in nearly 11 years.
The increases are seemingly small – an additional 27 cents for a pound of ground chuck at the grocery store, for example – but they are part of a brisk 3.5 percent increase in food prices since the pandemic hit the United States last March. The increase in food prices outpaced the overall U.S. inflation rate of 2.6 percent, the government said on Tuesday.