Anyone who’s been to a grocery store in the last several months has witnessed a steep rise in food costs. The prices of basic, essential ingredients like milk, eggs and bread have skyrocketed, leaving many Americans, some of whom struggled during the pandemic, forced to enact stricter food budgets for their families.
Of course, supply chain issues related to covid and the war on Ukraine have played a significant role in this startling level of inflation, but as the New York Times recently reported, some companies have viewed these already-rising costs as the perfect excuse to overcharge customers, “even after their own inflation-related costs have been covered.” It’s not surprising that corporate leaders have decided to price-gouge already struggling consumers, many of whom are suffering from what ought to be considered criminally stagnant wages, but it’s still disheartening. And as the holiday season approaches, the cost of what should be accessible luxuries, like a typical American Thanksgiving dinner, is steadily on the rise.
According to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), the average price of a Thanksgiving dinner for ten people has skyrocketed 20% from last year—the steepest year-over-year increase in price since the AFBF began conducting its annual Thanksgiving survey. The average price for Thanksgiving dinner now comes in at $64.05, a stark contrast from the 2021 cost of $53.31 and the 2020 cost of $46.90.
The most significant factor in this price jump is the cost of the turkey itself, which is up 21% from last year. However, there’s good news for shoppers who haven’t yet purchased their turkeys: Grocery stores tend to drop their prices right before the holiday, so now is the perfect time to snag your bird if you haven’t yet done so. Other ingredients that the AFBF tracked include sweet potatoes, frozen pie crusts, fresh cranberries, stuffing mix and whole milk. It’s also important to remember that these average costs vary significantly depending on where you’re doing your shopping. Generally, shoppers in the South are going to pay less than those in the Northeast, the Midwest and the West, which is looking at an average cost of $71.37.
For some shoppers, this marked increase in prices is simply an annoying blip on the grocery bill radar. Does anybody want to pay $10 to $20 more when they’re shopping for Thanksgiving ingredients? No. But for these people, the price increase is doable; they may complain about prices around the dinner table, but that table will be filled with all their favorites regardless.
However, for other Americans, such a steep increase in grocery store prices means that they will have to do without this holiday season. Some of these people—the relatively lucky ones—have access to emergency food services (which you should 100% reach out to if you’re struggling to feed yourself this holiday season—that’s what they’re there for!). Others, for a variety of reasons, do not. But is it really the job of “emergency” food services to subsidize workers’ ridiculously low wages so we as a society can fulfill the desires of greedy corporate CEOs?
Most food banks see a rise in giving around the holiday season, and if you have the extra cash to help support your neighbors during this difficult time, it can be a solid way to redistribute wealth to those who need the most help. But let’s be honest: If we want to make sure our communities are well-fed year-round, we need to do more than donate our unopened jars of peanut butter. We need to vote for politicians who support regulations on corporations as well as campaign finance reform, which protects voters from corrupt politicians beholden to powerful corporate lobbyists.
Perhaps even more importantly in the light of our dysfunctional political system, we need to build communities that provide help and nourishment for one another in spite of rampant corporate greed. For many, Thanksgiving isn’t a time of celebration but rather serves as a reminder of the United States’ dark colonial past. But for those who decide to celebrate the holiday based on a love of food, family and friends, it’s the perfect excuse to build stronger social connections with our communities not just for the purpose of friendship but with the intention of creating practical political frameworks that can provide real, material support for one another. Grandma’s green bean casserole can function as the first step on the path to a more just model for feeding ourselves and others.
Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.