Bills or meals: High grocery costs continue to impact families in Southwest Virginia

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, food costs spiked 11.4% over the past year

While prices on some things like gasoline have dropped, grocery costs are skyrocketing with no end in sight

ROANOKE, Va. – Whether it’s dinner for one or you’re feeding a family of six, the cost of groceries is hitting families hard, forcing them to make changes.

“I do find myself cutting things out that I might throw in my cart haphazardly,” said Van Daniel, a Roanoke resident.

“Coupons and sales papers,” said Darryl Sessoms before heading into Kroger to buy groceries.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, food costs spiked 11.4% over the past year, the biggest annual jump since May 1979.

Now, families are having to choose between paying the bills and eating a meal.

United Way of Roanoke Valley President & CEO Abby Hamilton said nearly half of families in the community are struggling to afford basic needs.

“You’re going to have to make choices between health care, paying this bill, meeting the grocery bill, or even accessing childcare,” said Hamilton. “Big-ticket items.”

A family of four – two adults and two children – needs to make $32.56 an hour to cover basic needs like housing, healthcare, childcare, transportation, and food. But workers in the Roanoke Valley, on average, only make $24.05 an hour.

Hamilton said there are resources to help, including Feeding Southwest Virginia, LEAP’s Mobile Market and 2-1-1 Virginia.

While federal officials are raising interest rates to try to curb inflation, food costs are mostly out of their control. Droughts, diseases, and the war in Ukraine have all impacted prices.

“Consumers are very sensitive to food prices. You got to eat every day, three times a day,” said Dr. Mike Ellerbrock, a professor of Agricultural and Applied Economics at Virginia Tech.

Ellerbrock said it’ll take time for any savings to trickle down so that you feel relief before you head to the dinner table.

“Food entails fertilizer. it entails transportation. It entails fuel prices,” said Ellerbrock. “Farmers have to deal with a lot of different costs.”

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