Rising food prices impact struggling families

December 20, 2011 (CHICAGO)

The higher prices make it especially tough on families that are already struggling to get by and highlight the need for holiday donations.

These days there's not much in Tasha Ward's refrigerator.

"Cereal, Miracle Whip, and that's it," she said as she looked inside.

Ward is on disability and unable to work. And just before Thanksgiving, her husband lost his job as a security guard. Their five children and one grandson know this Christmas will be different.

"They don't have a tree this year," said Ward. "We don't have presents. They understand that...They know if we had it, they gets it. They gets it. And they really have been supportive."

Adding to their financial problems are rising food prices, which have forced them to get creative.

"We buy more potatoes now as opposed to buying French fries. You know you can get a bag of potatoes. You can bake them, boil them," said Ward.

"We manage together, though. All of us. We manage. The kids, me and my wife. We manage together," sai d Arnell Wren, father.

Compared to last Christmas, food prices are up an average of 5 or 6 percent -- everything from vegetables and fruit to dairy products and meat. For a family spending $350 per week on groceries, that's an increase of about $20.

Food industry consultant Bob Goldin, executive vice president of Technolic Inc., says partly to blame is the high price of corn.

"The food supply really revolves around corn. A, it's basic feed for meat, poultry," said Goldin.

The high prices are forcing food pantries to stretch their dollar at a time when demand for assistance is up.

At the Salvation Army, there has been a four-fold increase in demand for food boxes in some parts of the area.

"Where people used to be the donors and used to help the Salvation Army, they're unfortunately finding themselves in a situation where they need assistance," said Darlene Harvey, Salvation Army.

Tasha Ward came to the Salvation Army Tuesday for a hug -- and her Christmas ham.

"It's gonna be another Christmas as long as my family is there and we have food on the table. That's all that matters," said Ward.

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