Food Costs On the Rise

Rhode Island Food Cost Study

As the economy in Rhode Island recovers to pre-Recession levels, the need for food assistance from the Rhode Island Community Food Bank’s member agencies has remained high. While the Food Bank continues to address that need, we also knew that it would be helpful to figure out why that need was persisting, so we can advocate for effective policies to address food insecurity. We zeroed in on food cost and how the price of food is impacting the need for food assistance.

Learn more about the impact of rising food costs on low-income families in our 2018 Status Report on Hunger.

The Rhode Island Community Food Bank conducted a study on food cost from 2016-2018 to measure changes in the cost of food for consumers in the state. A shopping list was created with foods that could be prepared at home to produce a week of meals for a family of four based on the nutrition recommendations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Items on the shopping list were priced at a local supermarket in July 2016, 2017 and 2018. In this study period, the cost of food increased by 15 percent. Most food items on the list increased in cost, and yet the average consumer may not be aware of rising food prices.

Results from the study:

Food costs increased in each year of the study. The total cost for the shopping list was $252.82 in 2016, $279.77 in 2017, and $290.69 in 2018. The increase from 2016 to 2018 was $37.87 (15 percent). The cost increased for all categories of food, except dairy:

Food Category 2016 2017 2018
Grains $33.93 $37.23 $40.86
Protein $69.73 $83.10 $83.11
Fruit $57.03 $61.74 $70.87
Vegetables $48.04 $56.92 $51.53
Dairy $35.43 $32.62 $35.20
Other Food $8.66 $8.16 $9.12
TOTAL $252.82 $279.77 $290.69

The majority of items on the shopping list increased in cost from 2016 to 2018. Of 71 items on the shopping list, 45 (63%) increased in cost, 12 remained at the same price, and 14 decreased in cost. The average price increase per item was $1.02.

Explore the entire Rhode Island Food Cost Study here.