Food prices have risen 10.4% from June 2021 to June 2022, according to the most recent Consumer Price Index report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, resulting in food insecurity for some of the most vulnerable in our community—older adults on fixed incomes.
As stated by Nourish.org, food insecurity is “the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.” Food insecurity and poor nutrition have severe consequences for the health and well-being of our senior community, which can be costly to health systems and individuals. Some older adults living at home report missing or skipping meals due to their inability to buy or prepare food.
The food insecurity rate in Oregon from 2015-2017 was 9.8%. With people 5+ making upwards of 5.5%. This represented 160,700 households or around 403,400 individuals. This number more than doubled five months later after the economic crisis related to the COVID pandemic (see OPAL 2020). In addition to food insecurity, it’s estimated that almost 50 percent of older Americans are malnourished.
Inflation isn’t the only way our pocketbooks are getting hit. To combat higher manufacturing costs, brands are shrinking packaging sizes, a double whammy combined with inflation.
From toilet paper to yogurt, people are spotting the downsizing of many popular products. “We are in the middle of a wave of shrinkflation,” says Edgar Dworsky, founder of Consumer World and a consumer advocate who has tracked shrinkflation for over 30 years. “Some manufacturers are doing both, raising prices as well as shrinking products.”
Not surprisingly, as food prices increase and package sizes shrink, the need for free and low-cost dining options is rising. Across the tri-county, more seniors in our community can now not afford healthy and nutritious food.
Food Bank data from our area shows that 28,000 people visit food pantries for monthly assistance. Of that total, around 8,000 people don’t qualify for federal assistance, meaning they do not receive SNAP, WIC, or other funds and rely on pantries and other community programs for support.
So, what can you do to stretch your dollars?
1. Spend Less on Food
Inflation-era food shopping may mean buying less red meat and more chicken or going to a farmer’s market for produce instead of the grocery store. Here are some tips:
- Shop the weekly sales, use coupons, and compare prices in-store and online
- Join free loyalty programs to benefit from member-only discounts that automatically deduct at checkout
- Make a list and stick to it, so you don’t make impulse purchases
- Eat first, so you’re not shopping while hungry
- Buy store brands. Here’s a list of more than 30 store-brand products savvy shoppers prefer and buy from Walmart, Target, Costco, Kroger, and Trader Joe’s
Another thought, sign up for a free newsletter from an organization called BudgetBytes$, where you’ll find hundreds of low-cost recipes and the promise: Eat More, Spend Less.
Want to save even more? Here are 21 products you should (almost) never buy at the supermarket.
2. Delay Taking Social Security
One of the best things a retiree can do to protect their income from inflation is delay claiming Social Security. After you reach full retirement age, your benefits increase by 8% for each year you wait to retire, up to age 70. Depending on your monthly benefit amount, that could add thousands of dollars to your yearly income.
Social Security is also adjusted for inflation. Next year, seniors may get as much as a 7.6% cost-of-living adjustment, according to a preliminary estimate from The Senior Citizens League, a non-partisan senior group. The bump in January 2022 was 5.9%, the highest in 40 years.
3. Review Your Budget
Account for the rise in prices in your budget, advises Marguerita Cheng, a CNBC Financial Advisor Council member. Adding inflation as a line item into your budget helps you visualize the effects, so you can see what your spending will look like in the future when you may need to cut back.
Small changes can add up. For instance, turning off the engine while idling, keeping tire pressure at 32 to 35 psi, putting off-road trips, or scaling back on unnecessary driving can help cut gas costs.
4. Access Free Food
And while emergency federal funding is helping to fill the gap, the need continues to grow. The Council on Aging of Central Oregon is challenged to find new ways to pay for food and support the network of community-based providers that offer solutions to meet the most basic needs of struggling seniors.
The Council on Aging continues to count on our loyal donors’ and funders’ generosity to help us provide Meals on Wheels and other food programs like community dining to ensure no senior is left hungry and alone.
Tri-County Food Resources Include:
Nativity Food Pantry
- 60850 Brosterhous Road Bend, OR 97702
- (541) 388-0765
- Location: 1245 SE 3rd Street, Suite 7 Bend, OR 97702
- Location: 515 NE Dekalb Avenue Bend, OR 97701
- Location: 950 SE 3rd Street, Bldg. B Bend, OR 97701
- Locations: 231 NW Idaho Bend, OR 97703
- 1300 Old McKenzie Highway, Sisters, Oregon 97759
- Location: 1854 NE Division Street Bend, OR 97701
- Hours: Mon-Sat 6:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Closed Sunday.
- Location: 2051 NW Shevlin Park Rd. Bend, Oregon 97703
- Hours: Mon: 2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Operating as usual as of 4/2/2020
- Location: 450 SE Fairview Prineville, OR 97754
- Location: 1103 Elm St Suite 140 Ste 140 Prineville, OR 97754
- Location: 375 NW Beaver St Prineville, OR 97754
- Location: 49 NE 12th Street Madras, OR 97741
- Location: 556 SE 7th Madras, OR 97741
- Location: 4217 Holliday Street Warm Springs, OR 97761
- Provides food boxes with enough groceries to prepare five-day meals for eligible individuals and families. Food boxes are available every 30 days.
- Location: 651 SW Veterans Way Redmond, OR 97756
- Hours: Wed – Thurs: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
- Tuesday by appointment
- Location: 675 Rimrock Way Redmond, OR 97556
- Location: 328 W Main Street Sisters, OR 97759
- Location: 51661 Huntington RD #9626 La Pine, OR 97739
- Location: 16430 3rd St La Pine, OR 97739
- Location: 16480 Finley Butte Drive La Pine, OR 97739
- Location: 16480 Finley Butte Drive La Pine, OR 97739
- Location: 225 Hwy 422 S. Chiloquin, OR 97624
- Contact (541) 783-2420