Families cope with rising food costs

May 1, 2008 3:21:23 PM PDT
Sky-rocketing food costs are impacting families nationally and locally. A joint congressional committee heard from several government agencies about the higher costs of food staples, like bread, milk and eggs.

Lawmakers heard from a baker who said the cost of his wheat has more than tripled in the past year, leading to pricier bread and layoffs at his bakery.

He questioned why the government is still encouraging farmers to produce corn for ethanol and energy when the prices of food are so high.

"Why are we putting food in our gas tanks instead of our stomachs?" asked Richard Reinwald, owner of Reinwald's Bakery in Huntington, N.Y., and an active member of the Retail Bakers Association.

Tom Buis of the National Farmer's Union countered, "To make the allegation that corn is taking food out of people's mouths is a real stretch."

Buis, a former farmer and now lobbyist for farmers, said the high price of wheat has more to do with the price of oil and bad worldwide weather in wheat-growing regions last year that has dwindled world supply of grain.

Farm-state Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., agreed with Buis.

"I'm sorry about the price of your bread," he said to Schumer. "But the amount of wheat in that bread isn't much."

Brownback pointed to the weak dollar as a reason for the higher food prices. But he argued that a weak dollar is not all bad; it has, he said, improved farmer's ability to export their crops.

Also on Thursday, President Bush called for 770 million dollars to help relieve food shortages, which have led to violent scenes across the world.

This topic is one of many people are paying attention to.

Nationwide, food prices were up 4 percent last year, but some basics went up double digits. Milk went up 13 percent, bread 14 percent, and eggs rose almost 30 percent.

"Milk, bread, all the staples that you have to have?are just jumping every single week," Carol Casey of Hatboro said.

Increases are in the pipeline at the wholesale level.

Denise of Denise's Delicacies in North Philadelphia is feeling the effects.

While her bakery's signature pound cakes were coming out of the oven Thursday afternoon, the cost of the ingredients was rising.

The cost of some cake flour has tripled in 12 months; adding in more for eggs and butter, and Denise is looking at hiking prices soon by at least 5 percent.

"We have not passed on those significant increases over the last three months to our customers; we've been absorbing that and we can't continue to do that," Denise said.

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ABC News contributed to this article.

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