Jun 9, 2021 - News

Rising food prices overwhelm Iowa pantries

Citrus fruits on a supermarket shelf.

Lemons, limes and oranges on a supermarket shelf. Photo: Sven Hoppe/picture alliance via Getty Images

Global food prices continue to rise, putting more pressure on businesses and food-insecure Iowans.

By the numbers: In the U.S., food prices rose by nearly 3% in 2020, roughly double the rate of inflation. That particularly burdens the poorest Americans, who spend more than one-third of their income on food.

Between the lines: The spike has multiple interlocking causes, but COVID-19 lockdowns "are a wrecking ball for food systems," noted Lawrence Haddad, executive director for the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition.

Who it hurts: Everyone in the Des Moines area will spend an extra $10-15 at the grocery store. But it's felt steeper by food pantries and food-insecure families on tight budgets, said Becky Whitlow, director of the DMARC Food Pantry Network.

  • The wholesale price of rice has risen by 15-cents a pound. But if you're buying a whole palette, that can become an extra $500, Whitlow said.
  • DMARC typically spends $4-5 per individual, but it's now $6-7 to give someone a box of food, including fresh produce.

What's next: Expect more people to stop by the pantry, especially as unemployed Iowans lose their $300 weekly bonus checks starting Saturday, said Luke Elzinga of DMARC.

How to help: You can lend a hand by volunteering or making a monetary donation to DMARC. Details here.


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