Rising food prices hit grocery workers hard
Any U.S. consumers who pay attention to their grocery receipts have undoubtedly noticed the increase in prices over the past year. One of the groups being hit hardest by the spike in grocery prices, though, consists of people who spend their work days surrounded by groceries.
Grocery store employees are having a hard time affording basic grocery staples in the face of inflationary grocery prices, according to an NBC News report. Beef prices, for instance, have skyrocketed 19 percent, and the wave of base wage increases major grocers have rolled out recently has not necessarily made up for such a dramatic rise in food costs.
As of last year, the median hourly wage of a grocery worker in the U.S. was $13.02. Anecdotes tell of full-time grocery employees who are unable to afford a cart of groceries and whose near-zero budgets only allow them to purchase fast food.
While recent inflation has made the issue more severe, food insecurity for low-wage employees and grocery workers in particular, was a known problem in the U.S. well before the pandemic.
In August of 2020, amid a discussion of low morale and burnout among grocery workers, Janice Fine, professor of labor studies at Rutgers University told the Washington Post that grocery jobs failed to pay sufficiently to allow people to support themselves and their families. This existing state of affairs was then compounded by pandemic factors.
A study from that same month said that many frontline workers in the food system were among the working poor who are unable to afford basic nutritional needs.
A report from late 2020 on the dramatic rise in food insecurity in the U.S. by Means and Matters numbers supermarket clerks among those most impacted.
In 2021, grocery prices were hit by inflation at a rate not seen in the previous 20 years, according to MarketWatch. The cost of groceries increased 5.4 percent this year. Staples such as meat, chicken, dairy, eggs, sugar and coffee are some of the products most impacted. Beyond groceries, the cost of living as a whole increased 6.2 percent in the U.S. in 2021.
- ‘I can’t even afford to buy a cart of groceries’: Spiraling inflation leaves some grocery workers struggling – NBC News
- Grocery workers say morale is at an all-time low: ‘They don’t even treat us like humans anymore’ – Washington Post
- Food System Workers are the Unexpected but Under Protected COVID Heroes – NCBI
- On the Front Lines of America’s Dramatic Rise in Food Insecurity – Means and Matters
- High inflation is eating up the budgets of American households – MarketWatch
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is it possible for the grocery industry to alleviate food insecurity among its own ranks and remain profitable? If yes, does the industry have a responsibility to forcefully address the issue?