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Maryland Food Bank sees 20% jump in distribution from pre-pandemic as grocery prices remain high

Grocery prices remain high: Experts say several factors are to blame
Grocery prices remain high: Experts say several factors are to blame 01:58

BALTIMORE -- Comparing prices at the grocery store can be a pain as food prices are high.

Salem Abo-Zaid, an economics professor at UMBC, says we have reached the highest period of inflation since the 1970s and early 80s.

That's partly because of the hits on the nation's supply chain coming locally and from overseas as a result of the pandemic, but Abo-Zaid says prices are actually going down.

In June of 2022, inflation peaked nationwide at more than 9 percent. Now it's at 3 percent, according to U.S. Labor Department data.

However, many families are still feeling the pain in their pockets.

Prices for fats and oils rose the fastest in 2023 by 9 percent, according to the USDA. Sugar, sweets, cereals and bakery products also saw price hikes.

Abo-Zaid said the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia still hurts our grain supply since they make up 30 percent of the world's grain market.

He also said the droughts and wildfires in Texas have caused major cattle loss and that is why shoppers are seeing high beef prices.

But restaurants are still battling inflation, labor, and energy costs, according to Abo-Zaid. 

The Maryland Food Bank is on pace to distribute more than 52 million pounds of food which is a 20 percent jump in comparison to pre-COVID times.

The food bank's president, Carmen Del Guercio, says they are now buying about $25 million worth of food. Before the coronavirus pandemic, they say they bought about $6 million worth.

They saw a spike in clients around October 2023 and say they are still trying to cater to the extra demand.

"Some of the government support has gone away and then you tie that with inflation going up at the same time," Del Guercio said. "Many families are trying to muster their way through that but as time went on it's harder and harder to do that."

To save some dollars, Abo-Zaid advises shoppers to compare prices, cut coupons, and avoid wasting food.

"For example, minimizing the number of visits to grocery stores," Abo-Zaid said.

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