Thursday, May 29, 2008

Local menu prices are going up

Brooks Jarosz

With gas prices on the rise, the cost of transporting food and goods is going up as well. Earlier this month, Athens MidDay reported on how high gas prices are affecting the local community. Household budgets are among the hardest hit as food prices are soaring. Christine Hughes, owner of the Village Bakery and Cafe says the biggest cost increases include staple items like milk, eggs, corn, bread and flour. "Most prices for our main ingredients have gone up, way up" Hughes said, "Just in the last month, flour went up from a little over $20 for fifty pounds. Now it's over $40 so that's a 100% increase in one of our main ingredients."

Christine Hughes, owner of the Village Bakery and Cafe comments on food costs and delivery surcharges.

Federal government predicts rising food costs

The United States Department of Agriculture predicts the consumer price index will rise between 4.5 and 5.5 percent this year. According to the , retailers are passing on higher energy costs to consumers in the form of higher retail prices. The CPI for food increased four percent in 2007, which was the highest annual increase since 1990. Corn is also becoming an issue, as much of the crop is now used to make ethanol. Some believe this causes a shortage of the crop, including Arlene Sheak of Athens. "The way that we have used corn for fuel for those of us privileged to have cars and be able to buy gas has greatly taken away from the food security in the world," she says.

Arlene Sheak of Athens is concerned with food shortages and rising prices.

New prices, new charges

With the prices going up for food and fuel, many delivery services are charging extra money. One local business owner says it's hard to stay in business without a corporate cushion. Some delivery services have a surcharge ranging from six dollars to 16 dollars per shipment. And the costs don't stop there as many business owners have to spend hundreds of dollars to reprint menus. Also, customers have to deal with new, higher prices that sometimes sway people away. Most, however, don't see it as a surprise, according to Hughes. "I think our customers are maybe more aware of the reasons for the price increases. We put a lot of information around about how our food system works and doesn't work so I think our customers have an advantage. That way, they already know that these prices are tied to some unsustainable methods of production."

Heather Cantino of Athens says we should invest in renewable energy sources.

Many restaurants have chosen to go to an a la carte menu. The owner of Seven Sauces restaurant says it has not done so yet, but says the wholesale price for essentials like lettuce and soup have gone up.

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