‘All this puts parents in distress’: A sharp rise in meat prices for lunch increases parents’ back-to-school stress

Back-to-school season gets on parents’ nerves – and their wallets. And they now face another financial challenge: Lunchtime meat is becoming more expensive.

The price of lunch meat rose by 18% in July compared to the previous year the ministry of labour. That’s more than the 13% annual increase in food prices, which was the largest increase since 1979.

The price of ham rose 9.2% year-on-year in July, while bacon, breakfast sausage and similar products rose 11.7%.

As the school year begins, parents start buying more sausage products, said Brian Earnest, the senior animal protein economist at CoBank, a private rural economy lender.

A typical 2-ounce ham, 1-ounce cheese lunch sandwich cost about $1.65 in July, up 39% from the prior-year period, Earnest wrote a research note.

What is behind the price increase?

Sausages are a labor-intensive industry that requires many workers to process the raw meat, while labor shortages in the domestic hog industry have severely impacted supply, Earnest said.

An outbreak of bird flu earlier this year, which affected all types of poultry products – including eggs and turkey breast – also adversely affected the lunchtime meat market.

“All of this gets parents in trouble,” Earnest wrote in the report, as many parents see ham and turkey sandwiches as the most economical and convenient packed lunches.

While alternatives like peanut butter and jelly may be cheaper, Peanuts are banned in many schools Due to allergy concerns, he added.

Many low-income families have reported changing their diets to adjust to rising costs. Others have dived into savings to pay the bills.

Overall prices are going up. The consumer price index rose 8.5% yoy in July, up from 9.1% in June, the government reported earlier this month.

Inflation is making this back-to-school season difficult as parents are already stressed over the rising cost of school supplies and clothing.

Rising childcare costs are putting additional pressure on working parents’ budgets as many companies call their employees back into the office.

Many lower-income families have reported changing their diets to accommodate the rising costs, while others have dived into savings to pay the bills.

Parents are changing their buying habits

Consumers are buying products like tuna, chicken and even beans instead of deli meats, Walmart WMT,
-3.14%
CFO John David Rainey said in one Result call last week.

“During the year, we’ve seen more pronounced consumer shifts and trading activity,” he said Aug. 16. “For example, instead of buying sausages at higher prices, customers are increasingly buying hot dogs as canned tuna or chicken.”

Walmart did not respond to a request for comment.

Two days later, Robert Eddy, CEO and President of BJ’s Wholesale Club BJ,
-1.35%,
informed investors that prices for their own cured meats remained stable, although customers were also buying alternatives.

“Throughout the year, we’ve seen more pronounced consumer shifts and trade-down activity,” he said. “For example, customers are increasingly buying hot dogs and canned tuna or chicken instead of sausages at higher prices.”

BJ’s did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The rise in lunchtime meat prices also comes at a time when many parents are contemplating the end of universal school feeding programs.

In March 2020, Congress approved a set of school lunch exemptions that allowed public schools to offer free breakfast and lunch even during summer recess.

ParentsTogether, a national advocacy group for parents and families a warning in June to its 3 million parent members about the end of the program.

While part of the program was extended by a President Biden bill law signed This summer, universal free school meals were not extended and ended before the upcoming school year. That means the system is back to working the way it worked before the pandemic.

“Schools had some flexibilities during COVID so they could serve free meals to all children. Some of these options have expired, leaving many schools unable to serve all meals for free,” it said Ministry of Agriculture website. “Instead, families will do what they did before COVID. Schools accept applications and use family income to educate children for free. [reduced]-Price or paid meals.”

New challenges for the back-to-school season

In 2019, nearly 68% of students received a free lunch and 5.7% a discounted lunch under the National School Lunch Program. The Wall Street Journal reported.

Food prices remain a top concern for many households, especially since the universal school lunch program has helped so many families, said Allison Johnson, campaigns director for ParentsTogether.

As schools reopen after the summer, “a big concern for many families is making sure kids aren’t going hungry at school,” Johnson told MarketWatch.

From now on, only families are entitled to benefits — with an annual household income at or below 130% of the poverty line – may qualify to receive free school meals for their children.

Johnson said many families don’t realize they have to fill out paperwork first, while families whose annual income is just slightly above the threshold also struggle to feed their children.

“With food prices being what they are, they are concerned about recovering the cost of those meals now for the first time in several years,” she added.

School lunch costs apply

It can cost as much as $140 a month to feed just one child with breakfast and lunch a day, Rachel Cox, a Democratic candidate running for a seat in the Arkansas state House of Representatives, wrote on Twitter, citing information obtained during were provided an open house at her son’s school.

“I saw the look of panic in the eyes of many parents who didn’t know the free lunch program was over,” she tweeted.

Several state legislatures are working to expand their own version of the free school meals program. California was this month the first state to offer free school meals to all public school students.

At the federal level, Republican lawmakers blocked a bill extending the national version, citing concerns about tax responsibility.

As a father of 3 and 6-year-olds, Earnest said it was quite stressful trying to figure out what to prepare for this back-to-school season.

“Just add higher prices at the deli counter,” he said.

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/all-of-this-puts-parents-in-a-pickle-a-sharp-rise-in-lunch-meat-prices-is-adding-to-parents-back-to-school-stress-11661242803?rss=1&siteid=rss ‘All this puts parents in distress’: A sharp rise in meat prices for lunch increases parents’ back-to-school stress

Brian Lowry

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