LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) – The Federal Reserve raising interest rates was meant to help slow rising costs in the economy, including the cost of food. A Kentucky political analyst explains that food is 10% more expensive today than it was last year. Many are worried about the possibility of a recession and rising unemployment, which could lead to more financial hardship for families.
Tania Whitfield, 37, has two young daughters, aged 8 and 9. She tries to make sure they have a balanced diet, including special treats from time to time. She uses the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, to help feed her family. She works with the Kentucky Food Action Network to ensure that her and the voices of her community are heard.
Whitfield shares, “It’s expensive. You know, and that’s what a lot of people don’t understand. You know, when you go from, you know, spending $3 on stuff to spending $6 and $7, that will change that.”
As a server in Lexington, Whitfield felt rising grocery prices. She even had to make the tough decision between healthy choices and cheaper sweet choices. Now she spends up to $800 a month on food, more than her rent. In the past month, his benefits have gone from over $650 a month to $400.
“That’s a big difference, and if you know of another way to still get the same amount of food, I’m all for it,” Whitfield says. Many factors contribute to rising food prices, including the war in Ukraine. Ukraine and Russia account for a third of the world’s wheat, 20% of the world’s corn, natural gas and fertilizers, and 11% of the world’s oil. Benefits such as SNAP and WIC are available to families based on household income. In March 2020, Congress increased these benefits, giving everyone who needs them the maximum allowance, part of the emergency relief. States could use it if federal public health emergencies were in place and a state of emergency related to COVID-19. April was the last month for benefits in Kentucky, and in May, additional benefits dropped by an average of $100 per person.
Dustin Pugel, senior policy analyst at the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, says, “On a large scale, that looks like about $50 million a month, in grocery money in Kentucky that we don’t see anymore.
This senior policy analyst explains that the concern is that raising rates too high, too quickly – could lead to lower business investment, which can lead to job losses – this would put
more pressure on struggling families.
Pugel explains, “The USDA doing those benefits, they’re going to continue to do that for states that have a state of emergency in place — probably at least through November. Which means Kentucky is going to miss about $50 million. of dollars .” “It’s my safety net and when you take that from someone – and it’s not even for me. If it was just me, I wouldn’t care. I would deal with it, but I I have two little girls that I have to ponder,” says Whitfield.
She wants politicians to hear communities fighting for basic needs. She wants them to think about what life would be like as parents with tight budgets and limited benefits.
“It’s getting harder and harder to be a parent. You know, because you’re trying to keep them as innocent as possible with everything that’s going on in the world, you can’t. So you have to try to keep some things, as much as you can, innocent to them as you can. But a lot of people just don’t understand that, you know, they want to talk about it, but they don’t really understand what’s going on,” shares Whitfield.
In addition, the LEX18 analyst speaking to LEX18, for benefits to be reduced quickly, believes that the summer will be particularly difficult for families with children.
He says the USDA has also allowed schools to provide free meals to children — those waivers have also expired. At the end of this month, these meals will no longer be available either.