The U.S. Department of Agriculture noted an across-the-board 5 percent rise in food costs in 2007, but local venders are seeing sharper rises in dairy and wheat products.
At Bowman’s Market on Pine Street in Gloversville, John Franco said he thinks the hike in food prices is linked to fuel costs for transportation and delivery.
“We now have a fuel surcharge added to our bills,” Franco said. “Some vendors have cut how often they will deliver to us as well.”
Franco's father, Jim Franco remarked about the change in cost of a loaf of bread.
“Last September it was $2.79,” he said. “The same loaf of bread now is $3.49.”
John Franco said he has seen the cost rise on all the staples — wheat, flour and dairy products.
“It's toughest on large families with kids,” Jim Franco said. “Look what a box of cereal costs.”
A new report by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets shows that dairy farmers spend over 4.4 percent of the money they make from milk on delivery costs. The link between food and fuel costs is shown by another item in the report. Diesel fuel in 2007 went for $2.87 and now costs $4.24 according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Those costs are all factored into the retail cost of dairy products and any other food product transported to the local grocery store.
At Buck’s Pizza in Gloversville, where Jared DeMagistris has worked for the past four years, the restaurant no longer offers the “take-out special” that had been its trademark for years. Owner Mary Jo Faville said she can no longer offer it due to the rising cost of her materials that go into a pizza.
“Costs are definitely up,” Faville said. “First it was cheese, then flour, now sauce has gone up. Next it'll be the pizza boxes.”
Faville said for years Buck’s had a $6.99 carry out special for a large, cheese pizza. That same pizza, regularly priced at $8.95, is now $9.95 plus tax.
“It's tough,” Faville said. “You have to keep raising your prices according to your costs. I hate to do it to my customers, but I have no choice.”
Faville said she has managed to keep the prices of toppings the same but doesn't know how long that will last. When she goes to the store to buy for her own household, Faville said she is shocked.
“Oh my God, it’s terrible,” Faville said. “I bought a package of American cheese for $4.29 that was $1.99 two years ago. And whole grain bread is $3.37.”
What’s worse, Faville said, is when people shop at the grocery store, they “pay what they pay” and may grumble, but there is no one in particular to blame. When they shop at her pizzeria, however, they may voice their displeasure.
“My customers get mad at me and I feel horrible,” she said. “I want to keep my employees and so I have to raise prices with my costs.”
Faville said, however, she would refuse to buy lower quality products to cut costs.
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“I won't buy cheaper quality to make my pizzas,” she said. “I buy the best that I can offer.”
At Price Chopper in Gloversville Tuesday, Gloversville High School business teacher Tammy McCue was buying food for dinner with her file of food coupons close at hand in her basket.
“I think the higher costs of food are definitely a factor of fuel costs going up," she said. “Rising fuel costs add to cost of living in general.”
McCue has tried to combat the cost of groceries with the use of food coupons. She said she thinks they are worth the time it takes to clip, sort and utilize the coupons.
“I try to teach my students to be a coupon clipper,” she said.
She said she tries to plan ahead and do her main shopping every two weeks when coupons are valued most.
“My kids [at school] laugh at me, but you can really save by careful use of coupons,” she said.
She said she liked that Price Chopper bought produce from local farmers.
“I think fresh veggies are the next item that will be going up though,” she said.
At Fulton County Department of Social Services, Director of Financial Assistance John Rogers said the amounts of food stamps hadn’t risen per capita as yet, but the amount doled out had. This was partly because of an easier apllication process and economic conditions causing some to apply for food stamps who hadn't previously done so, Rogers said.
“Some people are considering food stamps who didn't before,” he said.
Rogers said the maximum a family of four could receive on food stamps was $542 per month.
Fulton County expended $637,614 on food stamps in March in comparison to $531,521 in March of 2007. He also noted there are 6,371 food stamp recipients in the county so far this year as compared with 5,726 last year.
DSS Commissioner Sheryda Cooper said there had been a push by the federal government to make the food stamp program more “user friendly” with more phone recertifications and transfers of cases between counties.
Whether or not food stamps would go up with rising food costs in the near future wasn’t something Cooper could predict.
“They don't tell us ahead of time when there will be an increase,” Cooper said.
Rogers noted that food stamp moneys expended in the county were federal dollars and could would help the local economy rather than hurt it.
Richard Nilsen is a general assignment reporter and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Leader-Herald/Richard Nilsen
John Franco stocks the shelves at Bowman’s Market in Gloversville Tuesday.