Food pantries say Washington seniors are hit the hardest by inflation

Newly-released numbers show that inflation has skyrocketed nationwide since this same time last year. The Consumer Price Index went up more than 9% from a year ago in June and in Washington state, the numbers are even higher.  

At the Rainier Valley Food Bank, volunteers are working to keep the community healthy and fed by delivering groceries and offering in-person "shopping" during which people can select their own items for free. 

"It gives them a chance to make their monthly salary go a little further," said Gloria Hatcher-Mays, Executive Director, Rainier Valley Food Bank.   

Organizers and volunteers have watched prices skyrocket at the grocery store along with their clients, especially locally where inflation has outpaced the national level. 

"For the nation, it was roughly 9.1 % for an inflation increase in the month of June, but what we know in Seattle it’s gone up another percentage point to 10.1%, so we’ve been much more impacted here than in other places," said Hatcher-Mays. 

In terms of demographics, one of the larger groups the Rainier Valley Food Bank serves is seniors, and they are hit the hardest with the rising cost of food. 

"We have seen more seniors finding their way to the food bank directly themselves," said Hatcher-Mays.

She says social security checks are not keeping up.

"We have seen social security checks not really having an increase, that correlates what happens with inflation, so seniors are really feeling the pinch," said Hatcher-Mays.

Christina Wong, Director of Public Policy at Northwest Harvest says workers there recently completed a survey of families from across Washington.  She says 90% reported that the cost of living was their biggest barrier to getting nutritious food. She says Congress has the opportunity right now during the budget reconciliation process to bring back some of the resources that were lost, including the expanded Child Tax Credit. 

"It was no surprise that while those payments were going out last year, child hunger dropped by 40%, and then they went back up again to 40%," said Wong.

She says there has also been a drop-off in donations to food pantries because people are feeling more challenged in their own homes. Hatcher-Mays says they've also felt the pinch at the Rainier Valley Food Bank. 

"From January to June, we have seen an increase of 15% in the amount of money that we have had to spend to buy the foodstuffs that we need to serve everyone here out of the food bank," said Hatcher-Mays.

Wong says gas prices are another hurdle for local families.  They used to be able to drive to different stores to comparison shop to get the best deal on food, but with gas prices so high, it's not cost-effective to do that.