Summit County had challenges before the pandemic, but the virus, supply chain disruptions and now inflation are exacerbating those issues. Lack of affordable housing and few childcare options already make it difficult for some to carve out a long-term life in the community, but now the rising cost of living is making budgets even tighter, say community leaders.
According to latest consumer price index report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the cost of all measured items has increased nearly 8% over the past year. A statement from the organization noted that the cost of gasoline, housing and food were the main contributors to the increase. Over the past 12 months, the cost of some goods has steadily increased, and now the inflation rate is the highest since January 1982.
Community members need not be told that the cost of basics like gas and food has taken a steep turn. According to Brianne Snow, executive director of the Family and Cross-Cultural Resource Center, the number of visits to the nonprofit’s food markets has “skyrocketed” since December. Snow said that comparing December 2021 to December 2022, the number of visits increased by 123%. Visits increased by 177% comparing last January to January 2021.
Between December and February, Snow said there was a 17% increase in the number of families visiting the food market and there was a 12% increase in the number of families who visited the food markets several times. times in a single month.
“Most of our customers are from low-income households, so they’re less able to afford rising prices at gas tanks and grocery stores,” Snow said. “These people are already working so hard to stretch limited budgets…and they can’t absorb the higher costs like others could.”
Although the nonprofit sees a lot of new people visiting food markets, Snow said there are still quite a few community members leaving the county altogether, making it difficult to interpret these numbers. . Still, Snow said he’s heard anecdotes of customers carpooling to food markets to save gas. In fact, she says, making decisions based on gas prices seems to be more common among customers.
Gas prices were already rising before Russia invaded Ukraine, and now the conflict overseas is squeezing US budgets. Skyler McKinley, regional director of public affairs for AAA, said a week ago that Colorado drivers should expect prices to continue to climb. According to Nancy Higuera, food market supervisor at the Family and Cross-Cultural Resource Center, it seems some members of the community are listening.
“We have a lot of buyers. They all come in a car, and in a car there are up to four different families,” Higuera said. “Everyone carpools so they can come to the food market. Driving one car, instead of four separate cars, saves gas.
The non-profit organization operates two food markets, one in Breckenridge and the other in Dillon. Snow explained that the markets carry generally more expensive items, such as meat, dairy, eggs and fresh produce. The idea is that shoppers can get these items from the market and cheaper items, such as canned goods, from the grocery store.
The market is not income-based and only basic information – such as names, dates of birth, phone numbers and number of other people in a household – is collected on the first visit to the market. ‘a buyer. No appointment is necessary and first time buyers are always welcome.
The nonprofit relies on some partnerships to buy fresh food, but Higuera said he’s noticed in recent months that donations aren’t coming through the doors as much as they used to. The nonprofit has partnerships with local entities to pick up food before it goes to waste, but she said even these are becoming less frequent. This does not help as more and more buyers frequent the markets.
“I actually had a customer, a shopper, who came in and said, ‘I went to City Market to get groceries and I left because it was too expensive and I came here’ , and that to me is crazy,” Higuera said. “Things are getting way too expensive right now.”
In Safeway’s 2021 ad from Wednesday, March 17, the grocery store advertised fresh, natural, skinless chicken breasts or thighs for $1.97 a pound. Last week the same item was advertised for $3.99 per pound.
City Market announces similar increases on some of its items. Last year, its ad for the same day marked Eckrich’s smoked sausage as two for $5. The same item last week was advertised as two for $7.
Not every item has such a dramatic increase, but Snow noted that these small changes have a big long-term impact.
“We live in a very expensive region, so these changes have a real impact on our clients’ budgets. It makes a huge difference to being able to live the life they lived,” Snow said.