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Food, gas cost more; economist explains surge in inflation

Gas prices and food split image
Posted at 5:52 PM, Nov 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-10 20:08:13-05

KANSAS CITY, MO. — Paying for food or gas is costing more as inflation reaches levels not seen in decades.

The Consumer Price Index summary reports goods increased 6.2% over the last 12 months. It's the largest increase in more than 30 years.

"Those price signals are important for the operation of the economy and it really means times are good," Frank Lenk, the Director of Research Services at Mid-America Regional Council, said. "That's what rising prices mean. There's more people that have money to spend than there are things to buy."

Lenk said the pandemic caused a ripple effect in the economy that's still being felt.

"Demand snapped back much faster than supply could snap back and so we've got this imbalance in the market. It's causing prices to rise," he said.

The economist said there could be elevated inflation for about a year, but that this normal function of the economy doesn't alarm him. What does is the impact on people who can't afford the higher prices.

"If you need a new car, you can't afford a new car. Used car prices have gone up tremendously. So for those at the ... lower half of the market, these are real hurts," Lenk said.

Inflation is driving more people to the food pantry at Operation Breakthrough in Kansas City, Missouri.

"People who might only have come three times a month are now coming four times a month," said Operation Breakthrough President and CEO Mary Esselman said.

For Esselman, the impact of inflation goes beyond just seeing more people relying on the food bank.

"We're also hearing more conversations about what they're not able to get at the store with limited resources and hoping we can find ways to have it available in the pantry," she said.

According to Esselman, the nonprofit is stretching their money and food in order to navigate inflated food prices.

"One of things we've done is work on getting bulk food, especially meat, from Harvesters," Esselman said. "We can then have our teaching chef, who has his food handlers permit, reprocess into smaller family size packaging that we can then make sure families have what they need."