In April of 2022, the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed that food prices were expected to go up by 5% by 2023. Even two years after the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, prices continue to rise. College students are struggling now more than ever to afford the groceries that they need.
The Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a representative market based on consumer goods, increased by 0.8% from July 2022 to August 2022.
Even two years after the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, prices continue to rise.
For students, eating at home used to be the cheapest option, but with how expensive basic food products have become, grocery shopping is becoming just as expensive as eating out.
“Since inflation has gotten so bad, I’ve started filtering my items when I shop online from cheapest to most expensive. That way I’m looking at the most affordable options first, not worrying about the brand names.” Texas State sophomore Mckenzie Jackson said.
Many students are already paying for rent, their classes, transportation, and other expenses. The recent rise in prices at the grocery store may leave them to question which expense is more important.
Luckily, there are resources and opportunities for students to receive aid to battle food insecurity. Some students may be eligible to apply for student SNAP benefits. SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and provides students with supplemental income for purchasing food via an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card.
Food pantries are also a resource that students can utilize. Hays County Food Bank provides food at no cost to low-income households, and those suffering from food emergencies. The food bank also offers a ‘Food Wise’ cooking class, which teaches families and individuals how to cook with the food that they receive from the food bank.
“When we interview our clients and ask them why they are there, It’s because of inflation.” development and communications manager Iris Tate said. ” Their grocery bills are too high, and it takes away from paying for other things like prescriptions and bills.”
There are plenty of food pantries located in the Austin/San Marcos area, that are open to helping students and anyone else struggling with food insecurity. The map below shows where each food bank is located.
Students are also learning how to make swaps for items that they would normally buy in order to save a little extra money. Most grocery stores offer generic brands and sometimes create products similar to the name-brand ones that tend to be sold at a lower cost.
Different grocery stores also sell the same items for different prices. Knowing which stores offer the lowest prices before shopping can help students save on their grocery bills.
Being a mindful shopper can also help students save money during inflation. Creating a budget, and keeping track of your other expenses is one way to make your grocery store trip a successful one.
Austin Community College junior Hannah Fulkerson and Texas State sophomore Lydia Atkinson are roommates who opt to shop together in order to combat inflation. Lydia said that this works best for them, as they are both responsible for paying their own rent as well.
“Ketchup is ketchup, and bread is bread.” Fulkerson said. ” Why would I buy the more expensive, name-brand product when I could get the generic one for a couple cents, sometimes even a whole dollar cheaper?”
“Hannah and I have started shopping together and splitting the bill in an effort to save money altogether,” Atkinson said. “We have been meal planning, and even though prices are still pretty high, it does make a little bit of a positive difference for our wallets.”
The rising of prices shows no current sign of stopping anytime soon, but students continue to persevere through this hard time. Despite having no control over inflation, students should never have to choose between their education and food on the table.