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Rising grocery prices challenge Puget Sound food banks

Dollars are stretched thin as food prices rise, and more people are expected to turn to food banks for help.

SEATTLE — Grocery prices keep rising, and that's creating challenges for local food banks as they prepare for the holidays.

Northwest Harvest says more people seek assistance when costs increase.

“We know that these households are being thrifty and making the decisions that are right for their households, but what it means is that they are having to choose between food and other essentials, choices that none of us would ever want to have to make,” said Christina Wong, director of public policy and advocacy.

A Labor Department report published Wednesday said the prices on goods ranging from gasoline to groceries rose a worrying 6.2 % from a year ago, NBC reported.

In addition to donations, Northwest Harvest purchases vast amounts of food to stock its warehouses, and the higher prices mean the organization's dollars don't go as far.

“We are continuing to be as thrifty as possible in the purchases that we're making for distribution, but this is also why we do systemic advocacy as well,” Wong said.

The Puget Sound Labor Agency, which runs a food bank that recently moved to Georgetown, relies heavily on donations, and said it's noticed a steep drop off in staples like oatmeal and rice.

The organization was planning to start buying more proteins for the people it serves, but that change in strategy came right as food prices jumped.

“If we need to go out and buy turkeys and buy stuffing, I think we're going to do it, it's just going to be stretched thin,” said Jacob McKay, operations and grants manager.

All this comes as temporary pandemic-related expansions of government food assistance expire.

“What that ultimately means for people who are experiencing hunger is that they have fewer resources,” Wong said.

RELATED: Help KING 5 raise 21 million meals for Home Team Harvest

Tune in to KING 5 at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 4, for a one-hour broadcast special highlighting the annual Home Team Harvest campaign and how it changes lives in our communities, with live reports from select locations around the Puget Sound region.