Food price increases impact Whitehall businesses

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Food prices have increased 6.8% in the last year, the largest inflationary spike since 1982, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The increases have been attributed to the pandemic.

Because Whitehall is small and rural, this can make for even harder times for the community on top of the pandemic. Studies have shown that the increase in prices for food is also somewhat affected due to location.

Whitehall has seen the increases at local businesses such as Putorti’s Market, a staple in Whitehall. Cheryl Putorti said that the issue has become more and more prevalent as the pandemic progresses.

“We are, of course, closely monitoring the situation and are concerned about how any price increases impact our customers’ ability to purchase food to feed themselves and their families,” she said.

Being in the food industry has become more costly due to pandemic woes, and Putorti compared the prices of products in the market that she has seen grow since the beginning of the pandemic.

“…the price of bone-in chicken wings almost doubled in the last six months and lettuce increased from about $30 to $95 a case, which has affected the cost at which we sell those items,” she said.

Another business in Whitehall feeling the effects of inflation is The Railyard Taproom and Restaurant. Mike Putorti spoke about constantly changing of the specials to make sure he keeps his food affordable for his customers.

“We make sure that we have affordable food, but we just recently had to raise our prices a little because the price of beef and chicken have gone up,” he said.

The Railyard has had its fair share of days “breaking even,” Putorti said. He mentioned that he was just about to post that due to short staff, it will be closed on Wednesday and Thursday. He said that most staff have other jobs and the pandemic has made it hard for everyone.

“It’s just another factor,” he said. “I have people who can work weekends, but if I stay open during the week they are going to be working every day and double shifts. I can’t do that to people.”

Time Magazine’s Claire Kelloway described no end in sight for the increasing food prices.

“Food companies do face legitimate increased costs and unique shortages, but these aren’t eating into their profits as economists might expect,” she wrote. “In fact, the largest publicly traded companies have never had higher profit margins. Such record earnings suggest that food companies have sufficient market power to pass all their higher costs, and then some, onto consumers.”

Cheryl Putorti says food price inflation is something that should be on the minds of local government officials. With food prices not expected to decrease anytime soon, it is something that is alarming for the community.  However, Putorti did mention that it is more than just the price increases.

“We do think that government officials on all levels should be concerned about food prices and should do what it can to keep food prices affordable,” Putorti said. “We also realize there are many factors outside the control of the government that affect food prices, like weather conditions affecting crops and the pandemic affecting staffing and production at food plants and factories.”

The nation has become plagued with food price inflation, and the market is facing more hardship than just the pandemic. Grocers are losing help because of low wages, shipping delays make it hard to keep shelves stocked and there are smaller crops of wheat, grain and more due to weather conditions.

“Though we have had to slightly raise prices on a few items because the cost to us has increased and though there are a few items that we have occasionally not been able to get, we have fortunately been able to keep our shelves stocked and prices the same for the most part,” Putorti said.

“As a small business, we hate to raise prices because we know it affects our customers. We have always tried to be very aware of that, so when we do have to raise prices, we keep the increases as small as possible while still being able to pay our employees and keep our business open. We are grateful to our loyal customers.”