I think about inflation every time I fill my car up with gas. I even think about inflation when I drive by a gas station or see a picture of one. This obsession has nothing to do with me personally. Filling up my small hybrid is infrequent and inexpensive. What causes me to think about inflation every time I am near a gas station is the knowledge that a single penny of increase in the price of diesel has a $400 impact on the food bank’s annual budget.
Roadrunner’s ability to feed hungry people drops by $400 every time the price at the pump goes up by only a penny. And, even worse, every penny means that hungry people have less money in their pockets for food and other necessities. Not only do people who are already having a tough time have to pay more at the pump, rising gasoline prices drive up the cost of almost everything else they need, including food.
Higher oil prices lead to higher food prices since much of the food in our country must be transported great distances before it makes its way onto our tables. Many other complex variables serve to create food inflation, and I honestly don’t understand the economics of many of them. What I do know is that they are things mostly beyond our control. Things like weather, natural disasters, and the intricacies of the commodity futures markets. Currently the drought in the Midwest is the other shoe that will drop sometime next year when the crops that are failing now do not come to market. The resulting shortages in corn, wheat and soybeans will drive up food prices on top of what we have been seeing as a result of rising fuel prices.
And for people already struggling to put food on the table for their families, inflation in the cost of necessities is a daily disaster that will drive thousands of desperate people to the hundreds of pantries, shelters and soup kitchens we work to supply every day. Unfortunately, our ability to respond to this great need will be compromised by the very factors that created the increased demand in the first place. It is a perfect storm of bad things for hungry people, and it has me staring at those gas pumps even more obsessively. Please spend a few minutes staring at them too, and then visit our website to find out how you can get involved. Thank you!
Melody Wattenbarger is President and CEO of Roadrunner Food Bank.