Deland – Amanda Ramirez, a single mother of a 9-year-old daughter, used to work in the Salvation Army food kitchen, so she struggled to put into words what she was feeling as she passed the helpline on Saturday.
“You have to go through this situation…it’s like a 360-degree situation,” she said. “I used to do the soup kitchen, so now I’m in line for help, it’s like…”
Her mother, Carmen Ramirez, completed her sentence: “It’s tough when you’re so independent… and you fill those cupboards with a good amount of groceries that you know will last until next month.”
They were among hundreds of people who waited in vehicles on South High Street on Saturday, a slow procession across the line at the Salvation Army in West Volusia County. They were given boxes of canned foods, butter, and other things before Thanksgiving.
Salvation Army Captain Camilo Rojas said that unlike last year, this year he was unable to secure 500 turkeys.
The Department of Agriculture is reporting a 24% decrease in stock of frozen turkeys from the three-year average, and supply chain disruptions are making it difficult for stores to source turkeys.
So instead, the Salvation Army distributed $15 Walmart gift cards to put in turkey, pork, or another food item.
Rodney Mintz, director of social services, said the Salvation Army had called up all of its customers and promoted the event, so organizers were expecting to see about 500 families come across the line, similar to 2020.
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Officially, the CPI measures inflation at a rate of 6.2% over the past 12 months. Individually, those who live and work in and around DeLand have reported seeing prices for gas, groceries, and some utilities jump even higher.
In providing families with year-round pantry, Mintz noticed a rise in the cost of baby food, rising from $1 to $1.86 per jar.
Most of the people in line seem to have their own shock sticker list.
Rebecca Ellis of The Deland Company flies out toilet paper, fresh meat and vegetables.
“Price is sky-high,” she said. “You used to buy a tomato for one dollar. Now it’s two dollars for one tomato, big, the size of a sandwich.”
Also: “It’s getting more and more difficult to keep fuel in your car to get to and from work, to get where you have to go.”
A year ago, regular unleaded gasoline was $2.03 a gallon in Florida. This week, the regular unleaded cost $3.35 a gallon.
Part of the child care worker’s problem was Ellis’ own bout with COVID-19, which left her mostly in the hospital throughout August. Her father, Jack Hood, also contracted the coronavirus and died in September.
“We’ve been through a lot this year,” she said.
Debbie Donohoe of DeLand described inflation as “outrageous,” especially for seniors like her. The 66-year-old is living off her Social Security check.
“Look at the price of chicken compared to what it was a year ago,” she said. “It’s crazy. It’s crazy.”
Donohue, like others, said they are looking forward to Thanksgiving.
“I am fortunate to have food to put on my table this year with my neighbor,” she said. “And I am fortunate to be here. These times are very difficult, we are all (blessed) all.”
Ron McLeod, a 58-year-old disabled man from Deland, walked across the line on his scooter with the American flag.
He is unable to work.
“I get Medicare,” MacLeod explained. “We try to save as much food as we can, stretch it out, and make it last. We take care of the cats…so cat food is also very expensive now.”
It wasn’t just people in line who noticed the price hike.
Alicia Fraga, a senior undergraduate high school student in Orange City, was part of a crew from the National Honor Society that volunteered to collect and deliver food boxes.
She is a passionate voucher who has volunteered to do shopping for her family.
“Omigosh,” said Fraga. “That’s a long list.” “Milk. About $4 a gallon. Eggs. The price went up dramatically for that. Crackers. $4 for a box of regular pretzels. Meat. Prices went up insane for lower quality meat too. Chicken, same thing.”
While coupons help her save between $10 and $20 every time she shop, she said they’re only useful for items with coupons.
“It’s ironic that the things that are more expensive are the things that you absolutely can’t save money on,” she said.
Ramirez, who lives in Deltona, says they’re looking forward to Thanksgiving. While she hasn’t been cooking much lately, Carmen Ramirez said she plans to make pulled pork buns, pancakes, and yogurt. Amanda Ramirez hopes to buy a turkey.
“As long as the family is eating and everyone is together, it makes the situation a little better,” said Amanda Ramirez.
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