When the pandemic closed schools and restaurants last winter, Americans went to the supermarket to stock up on food for the stay-at-home weeks. Grocery sales skyrocketed by 32 percent last March and have remained strong, averaging $6 billion a month above pre-Covid levels, said the Census Bureau on Wednesday.
Since the turn of the century, Americans have spent roughly 10 percent of their disposable income on food each year, two decades of stability that may reflect a leveling-off of U.S. incomes, say two USDA economists. Their analysis provides context to the frequent boast by farm and food industry leaders, often joined by government officials, that Americans enjoy the safest and most affordable food supply in the world.
Lower prices for meat, poultry, fish and eggs were the driving factor for a slight decline in grocery prices during August, the second month in a row that supermarket prices were down, said the monthly Consumer Price Index. Despite the decreases, food inflation ran at 4.6 percent in the past 12 months, rising far more rapidly than the overall U.S. rate of 1.3 percent.
After soaring because of coronavirus outbreaks among packing plant employees, meat prices are on the decline for the first time this year and are headed lower, said the USDA on Tuesday.
Food stamp benefits will rise by 5.3 percent in October, to a maximum of $680 per month for a family of four in the continental United States, said the USDA Food and Nutrition Service on Wednesday. The cost-of-living adjustment was announced even as anti-hunger groups are calling for a temporary 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits during the pandemic.
Grocery prices will rise a modest 1.5 percent in 2021, close to the long-term average and half of the larger-than-usual increase expected this year, said the USDA in its first forecast of food inflation in the new year.
Grocery prices will rise by a higher-than-average 3 percent this year, due largely to the coronavirus-propelled surge in the cost of meat, poultry, and fish at the supermarket, forecast the USDA on Thursday. It would be the largest annual increase since 2011. (No paywall)
Food prices rose sharply for the second month in a row, with beef recording its largest one-month increase ever, as the U.S. food inflation rate hit 4 percent in May, said the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Wednesday. It is the highest rate since January 2012. While food prices surged, the overall U.S. inflation rate for the past 12 months was a tiny 0.1 percent. (No paywall)
Americans will eat more chicken, already their favorite meat, as stay-at-home orders have consumers shopping at the supermarket rather than going to restaurants, said ag lender CoBank on Thursday in assessing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on food producers and processors. (No paywall)