COVID-19

Rising food prices make it harder for families on assistance programs to get by

Jasmine Garsd Aug 12, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
HTML EMBED:
COPY
One food bank network director says that even during good times, "the SNAP subsidy is often not sufficient." Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
COVID-19

Rising food prices make it harder for families on assistance programs to get by

Jasmine Garsd Aug 12, 2020
One food bank network director says that even during good times, "the SNAP subsidy is often not sufficient." Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The consumer price index out Wednesday tells us more about how much people were paying for goods in July. It’s up 0.6%, with gasoline driving things. The cost of food that we buy to eat at home was up more than 4% from a year ago in July.

For a growing number of Americans who depend on food assistance programs, the rising cost of food is straining how much they can buy.

“A couple of months ago, we saw the largest single-month increase in food prices that we’ve seen in the last 50 years,” said Diane Schanzenbach, an economist at Northwestern University.

This is at a time when millions of Americans are unemployed, and 43 million people are signed up for the food assistance program, SNAP. Schanzenbach says that during the pandemic, more families have been able to get the maximum benefit, which works out to about $40 per person per week.

Robin Safley, executive director of Feeding Florida, the state’s food bank network, says that with rising prices that’s not enough.

“So even during good times, when things are normal, the SNAP subsidy is often not sufficient,” Safley said. “So it’s only been compounded now.”

And she says, for food banks, it’s also getting more expensive to buy food staples for people in need.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s going on with extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

It’s been weeks since President Donald Trump signed an executive memorandum that was supposed to get the federal government back into the business of topping up unemployment benefits, to $400 a week. Few states, however, are currently paying even part of the benefit that the president promised. And, it looks like, in most states, the maximum additional benefit unemployment recipients will be able to get is $300.

What’s the latest on evictions?

For millions of Americans, things are looking grim. Unemployment is high, and pandemic eviction moratoriums have expired in states across the country. And as many people already know, eviction is something that can haunt a person’s life for years. For instance, getting evicted can make it hard to rent again. And that can lead to spiraling poverty.

Which retailers are requiring that people wear masks when shopping? And how are they enforcing those rules?

Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, CVS, Home Depot, Costco — they all have policies that say shoppers are required to wear a mask. When an employee confronts a customer who refuses, the interaction can spin out of control, so many of these retailers are telling their workers to not enforce these mandates. But, just having them will actually get more people to wear masks.

You can find answers to more questions on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 here.

As a nonprofit news organization, our future depends on listeners like you who believe in the power of public service journalism.

Your investment in Marketplace helps us remain paywall-free and ensures everyone has access to trustworthy, unbiased news and information, regardless of their ability to pay.

Donate today — in any amount — to become a Marketplace Investor. Now more than ever, your commitment makes a difference.