INCREASING COSTS OF GOODS
55,800 people each month,” Marlow said. “Since August, the need for food assistance has steadily increased. We are working closely with our partner agencies and are ready to help them meet the increased demand.” An email from Missy Herndon, president and CEO of Interfaith of The Woodlands, stated inflation has affected the nonprofit’s ability to help area residents as well. “Program costs have increased in recent months. Interfaith has raised rent assistance from $300 to $500 as fair market value for rent has increased in our area,” Herndon said. “Additionally, with the increase in gas prices, gas vouchers for our clients do not go as far.” Herndon said Interfaith of The Woodlands’ food pantry serves around 575 individuals every month, and the increased food costs will increase the nonprofit’s budget. Around 60% of the food pantry is stocked through donations, and Hern- don said there have been reduced donations in recent months. According to information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national costs of many staples have increased over the past year. Com- paring February data from 2020 to 2022, the cost of bread has increased by 22.7 cents per pound; chicken has increased by 22.3 cents per pound; eggs have increased by 54.4 cents per dozen; ground beef has increased by 52.7 cents per pound; and whole milk has increased by 62.2 cents per gallon. Information from the U.S. Depart- ment of Agriculture indicates the price of wheat increased over 30% throughout 2021 as well. Marlow noted due to increasing costs for families in the area, there have been struggles with receiving monetary and food donations, caus- ing the food bank to make more pur- chases with its available funding.
“A majority of our COVID[-19] relief funding, dedicated specifically to food purchases, has already been expended,” Marlow said. “So we are having to funnel other donated funds in order to purchase much-needed and harder-to-get items, such as meat and peanut butter.” Municipalities strategize Local governing bodies have also been feeling the effects of inflation and are looking at ways to ensure ser- vices continue. Chris Nunes, assistant general manager for The Woodlands Town- ship, said the levels of inflation are something local governments have not dealt with in many years. He said the most noticeable effects of infla- tion have come from goods that are required for resident services. “Many of our services are sourced with contractors, and prices are set for multiple years,” Nunes said. “For those contracts that have expired, we have started to rebid these agreements.” Nunes noted there have “been a handful” of contracts that had gone through renewal periods as of March 28, and contractors are making more expensive requests due to labor, fuel and material costs. In the neighboring city of Shenan- doah, the City Council approved increasing city staff pay in a 3-2 vote March 23 to both help staff members with inflation and to increase reten- tion. The changes to pay were varied depending on whether the position was hourly or salaried. “We looked at the numbers. [City staff] had done a market survey of other cities of similar sizes. … We were below market,” Shenandoah Mayor Ritch Wheeler said during the meeting. “We were unable to fill staff positions.” Shenandoah Finance Director Lisa
The national prices of food and gas have increased since the start of the pandemic, which has affected local businesses and nonprofits trying to help those in need. Costs are anticipated to continue increasing through 2022.
Milk, (fresh, whole, fortified, per gallon)
Eggs, (grade A, large, per doz.)
Gasoline , (unleaded regular, per gallon)
Ground chuck, (100% beef, per lb.)
Bread, (white, pan, per lb.)
Chicken, (fresh, whole, per lb.)
SOURCE: U.S. BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS/COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
Wasner said inflation was a factor for the pay increases along with cost-of- living adjustments. “Everybody is being hit with the same inflation,” Wasner said. As of late March, The Woodlands Township was in the process of selecting a consultant to conduct a compensation study to understand the impacts of inflation and other factors that impact staff compensa- tion, Nunes said. Looking ahead to preparing the township’s budget, Nunes said there are some uncertainties about the future. “The Woodlands Township has always taken a conservative approach to budgeting revenue and expenditures,” he said. “Inflation does create some uncertainty, ... and
it’s closely being monitored by town- ship staff at this time.” Area municipalities are beginning to plan for their upcoming budgets, which generally reset for the fiscal year in September. As of March, Oak Ridge North had not discussed infla- tion in its meetings this year. Cañas said many factors will deter- mine when inflation rates decline, including the Russia-Ukraine war and future coronavirus infections. “It is really hard right now to have an idea for what will happen for the remainder of the year with the uncertainty levels we are experienc- ing,” Cañas said.
For more information, visit communityimpact.com .
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