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Inflation is forcing some Hawaii families to change the way they shop for groceries

Inflation over the past year rose at its fastest pace in more than 40 years. The US Labor Department said consumer prices jumped 8.5% - and the worst isn't over
Published: Apr. 12, 2022 at 5:51 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 12, 2022 at 8:05 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Inflation over the past year rose at its fastest pace in more than 40 years. The U.S. Labor Department on Tuesday said consumer prices jumped 8.5% — and the worst isn’t over.

From Russia’s war against Ukraine to disruptions in energy markets and global supply chains, everything is now more expensive: gasoline, housing, food.

And it’s forcing many families to change the way they shop for groceries.

Charlene Kwan likes watercress, but with prices the way they are, that’s about to change.

“It’s grown locally, it’s not flown in, it might be choke here, I can’t believe I paid $3.99 last year and now it’s $7.99,” she said. “We’re not going to eat watercress, that’s all there is to it.”

And sticker shock is not just on vegetables — it’s on meat, cereal, and staples for Aimee Edward’s children who range from age 1 through 6.

“A gallon milk was about $4 to $5 dollars and now it’s 7, 8 bucks,” she said.

She says she’s shopping less — a tactic many Hawaii shoppers are taking to stretch their squeezed budgets.

Just this past month, inflation rose 1.2%.

Economists agree this rising trend won’t go away anytime soon — that’s concerning for food banks and nonprofit organizations that help low-income and working class families.

“We also need to make sure we have our temporary systems in place, making sure our emergency food system, food banks, food pantries are provisioned,” said Daniela Spoto, Director of Anti-Hunger Initiatives of advocacy firm Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice. “We can use our stimulus funds from the pandemic to support food banks and make sure they are ready to respond when this inevitably results in longer [food distribution] lines.”

But Spoto notes food distribution is only a temporary fix to the real problem.

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

For now, with some food almost double what they cost last year, families must make tough trade-offs.

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

A dozen of those by the way costs about $8.

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