‘Everything is sky high’: Higher prices, barer tables for many at Thanksgiving this year

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Higher prices for groceries. Record gas cost. An ongoing pandemic that means reduced working hours for some and an inability to work for others. For many people this year, Thanksgiving will be tough to put on the dinner table.

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Delivery by the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank has doubled since 2019, said Michael Flood, the bank’s president. The organization estimates that 1 in 4 people in LA County experiences food insecurity.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average cost of meat, poultry, fish and eggs nationwide is up 11.9% over the past year. Average cost of dairy products increased by 1.8%.

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Add to that the cost of living in LA County, which has some of the highest housing prices in the country. According to the advocacy organization United Ways of California, a family of four with two adults, a preschooler and a school-age child in the county would need to earn at least $95,112 a year to meet their basic needs.

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“For many people, there is already a tight, limited budget for food,” Flood said. People are seeing that their money does not go to the grocery store. Leaving some things they would normally buy.

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“Everything is skyrocketing,” Wilmington resident Kenneth Gulley, 57, said this week after picking up a box of staples — green beans, some fruit, cream of wheat, beef stew — at a local community center. “I barely make enough to get by.”

When the weekly food pantry at the Community Resource Center first opened in Wilmington in June, about 50 people came. By September, the organizers say, there were about 100 each week. An hour before the food distribution started on Tuesday, people started queuing outside the center.

Volunteers Rita Reyna, left, and Pedro Arroyo help unload turkeys for the Thanksgiving giveaway at Watts, part of a food pantry distribution.
(Francin Orr / )

“The need in this community is huge,” said center manager Candace Nafisi. “People just need help.”

Food banks across the state have reported continued high demand — in some cases two to three times it was before the pandemic, said Andrew Chen, director of government affairs at California Assn. of food banks.

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“Not only is there an acute need still from the pandemic, but it is going to be long-lasting,” he said. “We know from the Great Recession that it took a full decade for food insecurity to return to pre-2008 levels.”

The Times visited some community centers and food banks around the LA area before Thanksgiving.

“This turkey is really helping us. The meat went up, the milk went up. Most of the central things we eat have gone up a lot.”

Peggy Scott, 73

A woman holds a turkey.
Peggy Scott has a turkey she received at a food delivery event in Watts that drew a long line of people.
(Francin Orr / )

Two families will share turkey Peggy Scott at Watts in a Thanksgiving giveaway: her family of four, her 94-year-old neighbor, and a neighbor’s family.

At 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, a long line of people sat on folding chairs along the sidewalk as a large truck loaded with food boxes lined up in front of a neighborhood pickup spot. Delivery on the giveaway, run by nonprofit parents Watts and Hansel Phelps, a Colorado construction and consulting company, was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m.

The first person in line arrived at 6 a.m.

A woman smiling while serving food.
Alice Harris, known in the community as “Sweet Alice,” oversees the Thanksgiving food giveaway at Watts.
(Francin Orr / )

Alice Harris, 87, has spearheaded a turkey giveaway every Thanksgiving in this South L.A. neighborhood for 57 years. “The need is, most people are no longer working,” said Harris, founder of Parents of Watts, a nonprofit focused on children.

As soon as she saw volunteers coming out of the turkey, she said she was “here taking care of her relatives.”

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“I feel blessed to have that given to me.”

Dorothy R. On receiving the brown thanksgiving meal

A woman holds the Thanksgiving meal.
Dorothy Brown maintains Thanksgiving meals at the Pasadena Senior Center, which prepares and serves meals to senior citizens.
(Francin Orr / )

At the Pasadena Senior Center, Dorothy Brown sits in the lobby while a chef and volunteers prepare 250 Thanksgiving meals, including turkey, stuffing and vegetables, for delivery to seniors on Wednesday.

“I think people assume that everyone in Pasadena is rich,” said Akila Gibbs, the center’s executive director. She said that 16% of seniors in Pasadena live below the poverty line.

Brown, 83, a regular volunteer at the center, said she was not in serious trouble but still needed help this year and welcomed receiving Thanksgiving meals on Wednesday. “I feel blessed to have that given to me.”

“It looks like a little box, but you get a lot.”

Anna Velazquez sees a box of breakfast oatmeal in her lunch box

A woman holds a box of wheat grains.
Anna Velazquez, 52, has a box of wheat cereal, one of the items she found at a food pantry in Wilmington.
(Francin Orr / )

Cardboard boxes were placed on a table outside the Community Resource Center in Wilmington before the weekly food pantry distribution. This week, there were canned goods, packaged beef stew and some breakfast oatmeal.

Ana Velázquez opened her box and was thrilled to see the porridge, which she said had become expensive. “It is difficult to go to market. It’s $20 in the door, and you hardly get anything. ,

“It’s getting harder to buy.”

Rosario Moreno, receiving items from a food bank in Wilmington

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A woman holds a can of green beans.
Rosario Moreno, 66, holds a can of green beans obtained at a community food bank in Wilmington.
(Francin Orr / )

Rosario Moreno can’t buy as much as he used to at the grocery store because most food staples have become more expensive. “Milk, vegetables, fruits and meat are all increasing in price,” she said.

“I’m trying to give back to the community.”

Augustin Alejo Jr., who plans to use some of the food from his box to cook food for the homeless in his neighborhood

A man holds a package of noodles.
Augustin Alejo Jr., 59, holds a package of noodles from the food box he received.
(Francin Orr / )

Augustin Alejo Jr. is paying it forward. He said he plans to feed homeless people in his neighborhood from boxes received at the Wilmington Community Resource Center.

He is also struggling to pay high rent and now high food prices.

“Lately it’s going up and over and over.”

Epimenio Pimental on Food and Grocery Prices

A man holds a package of cookies he received in Wilmington.
Epimanio Pimental, 79, has a package of cookies. Snacks are an affordable luxury for some families these days.
(Francin Orr / )

A woman holds a can of chicken breast.
Maria Rivera, 45, can no longer buy her usual, complete grocery list at the store. A local food bank is helping reduce her bills.
(Francin Orr / )

Maria Rivera said she limits what she buys at the store these days. The food she picked up at Wilmington Food Pantry would complement her regular grocery shopping.

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“The price of milk, diapers, meat and eggs is very high now.”

Arceli Siguenza, 39, at the expense of staples her family needs most

A woman standing beside her 1-year-old daughter holds a jar of mandarin oranges.
Arceli Siguenza, 39, and her 1-year-old daughter, Johanna, at Wilmington Community Center. He has a jar of mandarin oranges that came in his lunch box.
(Francin Orr / )

Arceli Siguenza came to the community resource center with her 1-year-old daughter, Johanna. Ciguenza has faced reduced working hours – not time for higher grocery bills. The sticker shock is affecting her house “a lot.”

“Everything is touching the sky now. I barely make enough to pass. ,

Kenneth Gulley

A man holds a bag of beef stew.
Kenneth Gulley, 57, was excited to receive a bag of beef stew at the Wilmington Community Resource Center.
(Francin Orr / )

“To have a good breakfast right now, you pay $17 or $18. I can’t remember if it happened that long ago.”

Frank Van Julen, a Pasadena resident

A man eats outside.
Frank Van Julen, who has retired, eats outside Union Station Homeless Services in Pasadena.
(Francin Orr / )

Frank Van Julen treats himself to a meal when he receives Denny’s Social Security check. The retired health attendant has noticed that the number on the check has grown.

Van Julen is single and lives in a studio apartment with a microwave. Getting the Thanksgiving meal on Wednesday meant a lot to him, he said — it reminded him of his mother’s Thanksgiving dinner.

“I’m just one person with a cat. I feel like I’m fine. So far so good.”

Linda Ifkider, senior living in Pasaden

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A woman holds the Thanksgiving meal.
Linda Ifkider holds a Thanksgiving meal at the Pasadena Senior Center. Many seniors are faced with difficult choices because of their fixed income and rising costs.
(Francin Orr / )

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