Help make a difference for those struggling with the impact of inflation
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OpinionGuest Columnist

Help make a difference for those struggling with the impact of inflation

We don’t have any way of knowing what the next few months or even the rest of the year will look like.

Squirrel Hill Food Pantry shelves. Photo provided by Allie Reefer.
Squirrel Hill Food Pantry shelves. Photo provided by Allie Reefer.

We’ve all felt the impact of inflation in the past few months — the high gas prices, rising food costs, even rent is getting higher. In June, inflation rates reached the highest level they’ve been in 40 years, and while it is impacting all of us, some are feeling the weight more than others.

Some common food items like fresh produce and eggs cost at least 25% more than they did in March of this year. Kosher food has increased in price, with kosher chicken prices up 9% in the last few months. Reports show that these price increases are impacting younger Americans at a higher rate, with one in three households of recent high school and college graduates seeking help with groceries and food from a food pantry or other charity in the last 30 days. And price increases are moving faster than salary increases.

The rising costs of everything from gas to food to clothing is the unfortunate perfect storm for higher food insecurity in households. Families who first spend their household budget on food may suddenly find themselves struggling to pay other essential bills. In the last few months, we have seen families, seniors and people with disabilities unable to pay all of their bills because of the higher costs.

It can be easy to walk down the streets of Squirrel Hill or other communities and assume that everyone in the neighborhood will be OK during this difficult time. But inflation can and will impact individuals and families in a number of ways — and it’s important to keep in mind that no person or community is necessarily exempt from experiencing hardships, financial or otherwise.

One unfortunate side effect of the rising expenses is that some people are forced to move into more affordable neighborhoods where they may not have easy access to important community services and resources. While the JFCS Squirrel Hill Food Pantry is able to provide services five days a week, not all pantries can be open on a daily or even weekly basis — meaning those with less resources also have less ability to get the food they need.

We don’t have any way of knowing what the next few months or even the rest of the year will look like. Maybe our economy will slowly recover, or maybe these trends of inflation will continue into another recession. One thing I do know is that during times like these, the best thing we can do as a community is come together and care for our neighbors. We can do this by checking in with our friends and family or the people who live down the street. Ask people how they are really doing and listen when they respond. It’s important during these challenging times that we help to destigmatize seeking help — whether financial, medical or even emotional.

We can also do this by helping people connect to local resources that can provide assistance — whether it’s JFCS, JFunds, United Way of Southwestern PA 2-1-1 or one of the other amazing organizations that supports the community through the best and worst of times. Knowing the resources available can be life-saving.

And if you have the time, resources or both, giving to these important community organizations can also be extremely helpful. Through JFCS critical needs funds and JFunds, people in our community can get help paying for things in an emergency or in challenging times in their lives, like now. Or people in need can reach out to the food pantry to receive hundreds of dollars’ worth of free food — from fresh produce to pantry staples to kosher and halal meat.

Those who have the means to help and to give can change the world for even just one person who is struggling. Inflation won’t last forever. Food and gas prices will likely, eventually, decrease. The economy will ebb for a time before it flows again. But we, as a community, can make a difference in each other’s lives for a lifetime. PJC

Jordan Golin, Ph.D., is president and
CEO of JFCS.

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