Food costs eclipsing historic Social Security, minimum wage increases

Social Security benefits are going up 8.7% next year. The minimum wage is going up nearly 9%. But food prices went up an average 11.2% year-over-year from September 2021 to this year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

When people’s wages or other sources of income don’t keep up with rising prices, their quality of life suffers, said Caitlin Johnson, communications director with liberal-leaning Policy Matters Ohio.

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Recently released census data showed that childhood poverty dropped to record lows last year, mostly due to the expanded child tax credit, which has since lapsed, Johnson said.

She said the data also showed that poverty increased among older adults, who didn’t benefit from the same kind of targeted programs.

“Congress should pass an expanded child tax credit and Ohio lawmakers should also take action to help families afford the rising costs of necessities,” she said.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — commonly known as food stamps — is increasing maximum benefit amounts by 12.5%.

Larger food assistance benefits will help families and seniors better provide for themselves, said Lee Lauren Truesdale, chief development officer with the Foodbank Inc. in Dayton.

But many Foodbank customers struggle to pay for medication, gasoline, daycare and other rising expenses, Truesdale said, and many are still likely to need emergency hunger-relief assistance, though perhaps not as often.

Feeding a family of four for a month with $939 can be very tough in normal times, but it is almost impossible right now when food prices are so high, some advocacy groups say.

“The increase in SNAP benefits is a good first step in helping offset the increase in food prices, but alongside food costs, many other items have increased in price over the last two years,” Truesdale said.

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