When Phil Kenney of Bootlegger Bagels went to pick up a case of jalapeños the other day the price had nearly doubled from the month prior.
At Food for People, Inc (Humboldt County’s food bank) rising food costs started to become evident at the end of 2020, when they went to do their holiday ordering and the prices of turkey and chicken had both nearly and more than doubled, respectively. While holiday shopping is a once-a-year expense, rising prices on regular staples that are purchased in bulk mean thousands of extra dollars each month.
This past November, Jennifer Fumiko Cahill helped elevate community awareness of the rising food price impacts on local food supplies when it was reported that grain price doubling was influencing Tule Farm to announce they were likely seeing their last season of raising turkeys (see Slow Turkey). This season, Tall Trees Family Farm is starting to have similar concerns in regard to their broiler chickens.
Due to the rising prices of food, Food for People is experiencing a double whammy as they are being spread thin to cover rising food prices and are seeing an increase in the number of community members needing to access their services.
Why the rising costs?
Rapid inflation since the onset of the pandemic, for one.
Due to inflation, wheat prices have been on the rise for some time. With the current Russian attack on Ukraine, a global leader in wheat supply, it is being predicted that wheat prices will soon start spiking even more. The coming weeks and months will surely reveal the true impacts, which will likely trickle down to consumers.
A global shortage of fertilizer is being attributed to factors such as supply chain disruptions, technical difficulties at processing plants and weather. As a result, fertilizer is at record high prices.
Add to this rising gas prices, delivery driver shortages and our remote and rural location and it quickly becomes clear this situation is probably not going to get better any time soon.
“Unless something changes, we will have to think really carefully about what we offer” shared Karen Asbury, the sourcing and inventory control manager at Food for People, Inc.
What can we do?
Some shifts are already in the works. Tall Trees Family Farm is starting to diversify its offerings by adding veggies to the mix. Bootlegger Bagels is focusing on incorporating more local sourcing, such as collaborating with local sources for whole grain bagels and purchasing more local jalapeños during the high season to dehydrate for use later. And Food for People has recently been able to start sourcing eggs locally — as local prices now match the once more inexpensive out-of-the-area offerings.
But more will be needed. Localizing grain production is one solution that has been thrown into the mix. In addition to shortened supply chains, bulk purchasing is another — to secure out-of-the-area foods at lower prices. Making either of these ideas turn into realities is where regional collaborative strategic planning and increased critical infrastructure become key.
May Patiño is an anthropologist and coordinator of the Humboldt Food Policy Council. You can contact her at [email protected]