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Food price increases impacting Thanksgiving meal distributions

Posted: 5:28 PM, Nov 09, 2021
Updated: 2021-11-09 17:37:14-05
Thanksgiving dinner

BALTIMORE (WMAR) — Your Thanksgiving meal is going to cost more this year. It won’t change much for the average family, but it’s already hitting food donation organizations hard.

At 4MyCity in West Baltimore, it’s already their busiest time of year. With food prices on the rise, they are worried they won't be able to feed as many people this Thanksgiving.

“A lot of people are going to be priced out of food supply,” said CEO Christopher Dipnarine.

Millions of pounds of donated food comes through their doors every year.

They are a food rescue, the middle man taking food that distributors cannot sell and offering it up for free to organizations that help feed people in need.

“For instance this eggplant here if you touch it, it’s very soft… but this is still edible food so our goal is to take all of this and divert it to families that are facing food insecurity or hunger,” said Dipnarine.

Dipnarine said the number of people in need is increasing because food prices are on the rise.

“Especially fruit and vegetable prices, for some reason, are so high and getting worse every day,” said Erika Bicarraga, who distributes donations with Monte de los Olivos church.

It’s especially evident as we head into the holiday season.

The prices of nearly every component of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner are up this year, including the most expensive part.

“Turkey prices are up probably 16% compared to last year,” said Jim MacDonald, a UMD professor of Agricultural Economics Research.

MacDonald estimates whole fresh turkeys will cost $2 a pound this thanksgiving, compared to last years $1.73 a pound.

He said it’s because the cost to raise turkeys on a farm has about doubled in recent years, partly because the price of feed has increased.

“Our export markets have started booming again for those grains and as a result, their prices have risen sharply in the last year,” said MacDonald.

He said it won’t have an impact on the average household, which spends only 10% of their income on food, but it could really hurt low income families who spend more than a third of their incomes on food.

“Changes in food prices certainly affect their material well-being to a much greater extent,” said MacDonald.

So while more people may be in need of food, nonprofits are having to pay more to help.

"An order of turkeys that cost me $10,000 last year is costing me over $17,000 this year," said Dipnarine.

Dipnarine doesn’t believe they’ve be able to give out nearly as many turkeys as last year.

"Last year, we did over 10,000. This year we’re probably not even trending at 2,000 right now," said Dipnarine.

He said the best way people can help is by donating, either food or money, so they can help more families this holiday season.

“Someone is having a problem to pay their own bills and they cannot afford those crazy prices on fruit and vegetables especially and when they get this food they get just so happy,” said Bicarraga.

The Maryland Food Bank, which supplies 25,000 holiday meal boxes to partners state-wide, said their holiday supplies haven't been impacted by price increases because they bought most of their food over the summer.

However, with the heightened levels of need throughout the community, they are managing today’s increasing prices by purchasing in large volumes.