Tahoe reacts as food prices rise at rates unseen in decades | SierraSun.com

Tahoe reacts as food prices rise at rates unseen in decades

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. and#8212; Whether eating in or dining out, putting food on the table could keep getting more expensive this year.

Increases in the price of wheat, corn and fuel, and the global demand for food, have led to some of the largest increases in grocery costs in recent memory.

Last week, the U.S. Labor Department reported wholesale food prices jumped 3.9 percent between January and February, the highest monthly increase in 37 years. The Consumer Price Index rose 0.5 percent in February, the largest increase since June 2009, according to the Labor Department. The index is a measure of the cost of all goods and services for the average consumer. Food costs increased 0.6 percent in February, the most since September 2008.

Economists also reported that Americans paid more for gas in February, driving up consumer prices at the fastest pace in nearly two years.

and#8220;It’s just straight across the board, really,and#8221; said Meyers resident Mary Lee, after purchasing a small cart of groceries at Lira’s Supermarket on Thursday afternoon. She said she’s started to pay more attention to prices and is looking for bargains as prices continue to climb.

The Consumer Price Index for all food is projected to increase 3 to 4 percent in 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The increase is on top of a 2010 that saw costs rise in nearly every category of food tracked by the Department of Agriculture.

The largest price increases were seen in beef and pork, which jumped nearly 10 percent between January 2010 and January 2011 due in part to higher feed costs.

The cost of fresh fruits and vegetables rose 3.2 percent over the year ending January 2011.

Additional increases in the cost of produce have already begun, said Lira’s Market Produce Manager Claudia Bishop.

Crop failures have contributed to higher costs and prices that can fluctuate wildly on a weekly basis, Bishop said.

She said prices on produce could go up anywhere from 20 percent to 60 percent during the summer and remain high until the next growing season.

and#8220;It’s not only us, it’s the people we buy from, so, unfortunately, that’s the way the cookie crumbles,and#8221; Bishop said.

Kim Schouten, the co-owner of the South Lake Tahoe Grocery Outlet, said the discount grocery store could actually benefit from increased grocery prices as people look for bargains and wholesalers look to unload unsold merchandise.

Still, prices on some commodities at the store, like coffee, orange juice and bread, haven’t been immune to cost increases, said Store Manager Misty Reed.

John Segale, spokesman for Raley’s Supermarkets, said the company has received several requests for comments for stories regarding raising food costs, but is not participating in the stories.

The company is focused on fixing issues with several stores who were having weather-related issues, including being without power, Segale said.

A representative of Safeway Supermarket did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday.

and#8212; The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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