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Food insecurity returning to pandemic levels

The strain inflation is putting on people's bank accounts means more people turning to help from the community.

INDIANAPOLIS — Americans across the country are taking second, third and fourth looks at their budgets — seeing where they can trim — as inflation continues to hit wallets hard.

Consumer prices have been lingering at record highs since late last year and gas prices are still climbing.

Inflation is near its highest level in more than 40 years.

The strain that's putting on people's bank accounts means more people turning to help from the community.

Volunteers with Gleaners Food Bank worked hard Saturday to keep food on families' tables. They kicked off their CARE Mobile Pantry Summer Program food giveaway Saturday at John Marshall High School on the far east side for neighbors in Marion County.       

"Now with the economic price inflation, we've seen those numbers climb back up above 1,500 households again. The hardship is back in a different way for the neighbors we serve," said Gleaners CEO John Elliott, who said the pantry was supporting 2,000 households when the COVID-19 pandemic was starting.

The difference now is inflation. Americans are paying more at the pump and in the grocery stores.

People across the country are calling for President Joe Biden and lawmakers on Capitol Hill to do something to help the average American dealing with this issue.

Biden said he understands working families are struggling and are questioning why this is happening. 

"Putin's war has raised the price of food because Ukraine and Russia are two of the world's major breadbaskets for wheat and corn," said Biden.

But Michael Hicks, the director of Ball State's Business and Economic Research said that's not the whole picture. 

"With the exception of petroleum, the war really isn't responsible for very much," said Hicks. 

However, petroleum prices will affect things on a larger scale. 

"The problem with petroleum - everything is affected by that," said Hicks. "Everything has to move by rail or diesel engines. There are really going to be lingering effects by that."

Hicks also pointed to other factors driving inflation:

  • Lingering supply chain interruptions because of COVID-19
  • The war in Ukraine and its effect on petroleum prices and some food items
  • Overstimulating the economy with the Pandemic Recovery Act in early 2021

While what is happening is definitely a crisis, Hicks said that, so far, it's not the worst we've seen. 

"As bad as you think it is today, it's still, by historical standards, a short burst of inflation like this is not especially damaging to the economy in the long run," said Hicks.

Hicks said we could possibly see at least another year of high prices.

"We are past the peak period of inflation," he said. "I don't expect the prices to rise as fast as they have in previous months. But we are not going to drop very quickly either."

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