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Businessweek
Economics

Soaring Cost of Food Is Forcing Families to Scrimp at the Dinner Table

Inflation is slamming fridges shut and leading households around the world to make sacrifices.

Izabel Francisca Teixeira Valdeci unpacks groceries at her home in Guarulhos, Brazil.

Izabel Francisca Teixeira Valdeci unpacks groceries at her home in Guarulhos, Brazil.

Photographer: Tuane Fernandes for Bloomberg Businessweek

Whether at supermarkets, corner stores, or open-air markets, prices for food have been surging in much of the world, forcing families to make tough decisions about their diets. Meat is often the first to go, ceding space to less expensive proteins such as dairy, eggs, or beans. In some households, a glass of milk has become a luxury reserved only for children; fresh fruit, once deemed a necessity, is now a treat.

Food prices in July were up 31% from the same month last year, according to an index compiled by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. A portion of the rise is transitory, fueled by supply chain disruption and extreme weather. Although some of the bottlenecks caused by the pandemic show signs of abating, structural factors such as climate change and China’s strong appetite for imports will likely endure.