Kelly is feeling squeezed. The Bucks County mother of two young children is currently a full-time student. She and her partner have been able to get by on his income alone, but she is not sure for how much longer.
“Inflation is killing my family financially,” she said. “With gas prices going up, it costs me more money to get to where I need to go. And more money spent on gas means less money I have to buy groceries for the week.”
Gas isn’t the only cost going up. According to the latest inflation data published May 11 by the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, food prices increased 3.9% in 2020, 6.3% in 2021, and a whopping 9.4% so far in 2022 — the greatest increase in over 40 years.
According to studies complied by United Ways nationwide on households that are Asset Limited, Income Constrained and Employed, or ALICE, the “survival budget” for groceries for family of four in Bucks County was between $230 and $260 per week. This aligns with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Thrifty Food Plan.
Today, that family can expect to spend at least $277 to $314 each week — an increase of about $200 per month.
Rising prices impact everyone, but higher income families are generally able to absorb increased expenses by cutting back on extras, like vacations, online subscriptions, and other discretionary spending.
ALICE families like Kelly’s don’t have that cushion — and her family is far from alone. While about 6% of residents of Bucks County live in poverty, another 24% are ALICE.
ALICE families typically have little or no savings and live paycheck to paycheck. They generally earn too much to qualify for federal benefits or subsidies and inflation means their paychecks are paying for less and less of their basic needs.
To make ends meet, ALICE families are increasingly turning to food pantries to fill gaps in their food budgets, but pantries are feeling the squeeze, too. According to Feeding America, 55% of Feeding America food banks reported a decrease in food donations. That means that food pantries have to buy more food at higher prices to feed more people.
Nancy Funk, manager of the Lester Bahrt Food Pantry at First United Methodist Church of Fairless Hills, said that, fortunately, their donations haven’t dropped, but they are busier. “We’re seeing between 55 and 65 families per week now, where before we fed 30-40,” she said. “And about a quarter of these families are new to us. Some are older folks and they say they’re coming because of the high prices at the grocery store.”
United Way of Bucks County’s Bucks Knocks Out Hunger campaign, running from now until June 17, will help bolster food pantries in the county.
The initiative will provide 100,000 nutritious meals and raise $110,000 for additional food support. “We need the public’s support to make BKO Hunger successful. A lot of people are depending on the additional meals we will provide,” said Tim Philpot, who coordinates BKO Hunger for the United Way.
Kelly is grateful for the support, but still worried. She was able to get food at United Way’s HELP Center recently to help them get by. “I’m afraid we will really end up in trouble,” she said. “I’ll take whatever support I can get to help our family through this hard time.”
United Way’s Bucks Knocks Out Hunger campaign is underway and will culminate with a meal-packing event on June 17th at Neshaminy Mall. Through the campaign, the organization hopes to pack 100,000 shelf-stable, nutrient rich meals and raise $110,000 to support local food relief programs. Individual donations can be made online at www.uwbucks.org/bkohunger or by mailing a check to United Way of Bucks County at 413 Hood Boulevard, Fairless Hills, PA 19030. Please write BKO Hunger in the memo line.
Tim Philpot is director of financial stability and health for the United Way of Bucks County.
This article originally appeared on Bucks County Courier Times: Knocks Out Hunger to support Bucks County families, food pantries