Hawaiian families and non-profits are bracing for food prices to continue to rise

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) — Charlene Kwan likes watercress, but with prices as they are, that’s about to change.

“It’s grown locally, it wasn’t flown in, it might suffocate here, I can’t believe I paid $3.99 last year and now it’s $7.99,” she said. “We won’t eat watercress, that’s all.”

And the sticker shock isn’t just affecting vegetables, it’s also impacting meat, cereal and staple foods for Aimee Edwards’ children ages 1 to 6.

“A gallon of milk used to be like $4-5 and now it’s $7.8,” she said.

She says she’s shopping less, a tactic many Hawaii shoppers use to stretch their tight budgets.

In the past month alone, inflation rose by 1.2%.

Economists agree this rising trend isn’t going away anytime soon — which is worrying for food banks and nonprofits that help low-income and working-class families.

“We also need to make sure we have our temporary systems in place to ensure our emergency food system, food banks and food supplies are stocked,” said Daniela Spoto, director of anti-hunger initiatives for the advocacy Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice. “We can use our stimulus funds from the pandemic to support food banks and ensure they are ready to respond when it inevitably takes longer [food distribution] lines.”

However, Spoto notes that food distribution is only a temporary solution to the real problem.

She hopes lawmakers will invest in systems that address Hawaii’s massive income disparity — like a higher minimum wage and a recoverable and permanent income tax.

For now, families are having to make tough compromises as some groceries cost nearly double what they were last year.

“What can you do? The family has to eat. You’re used to eating the same thing regularly. You just have to pay the price,” Kun said. “And for Easter, I still have to buy eggs.”

A dozen of these, by the way – about $8.

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