Inflation: Prices in Sonoma County soar, forcing students to choose their lifestyle


Inflation is on the rise, and for students at Santa Rosa Junior College, rising prices are forcing them to make tough budget decisions.

Inflation rose 7.5% in the past 12 months ending in January 2022, and consumer prices jumped to 7.9% in February alone, a 40-year high. according to the Bureau of Labor Market Statistics.

Inflation is the result of a variety of issues, from pandemic supply chain disruptions to an increase in the money supply. The pandemic has prompted the Federal Reserve to pump money into the economy and the White House and Congress to donate trillions of dollars to help families and businesses. With an influx of money into the US economy, people have started spending, according to a February Commerce Department report.

When the demand for products is high and the supply is low, prices skyrocket causing inflation.

The Federal Reserve fights inflation by influencing short-term interest rates and implementing quantitative easing. ” This process [quantitative easing] will dampen demand as borrowing costs rise, but will do nothing to ease supply constraints in the oil market,” said SRJC economics instructor Edward Sorensen.

“The net result is that we could enter a period of slower growth, rising interest rates and stubbornly high gas prices,” he said.

Gas inflation gobbles up revenue

Prices at the gas pump weigh on the wallets of SRJC students.

National gas prices have been slowly declining, but California gas prices continue to rise. Sonoma County gas prices range from $5.55 to $6.53 per gallon on April 6. The average national gas price is $4.16 per gallon.

“I’ve had to cut back on my car trips to places that aren’t in my area,” said SRJC student Andrew James, one of many students asked about the impact of high gas prices. on their budget. “I’m probably spending about $50 more a week on gas than I did last year.”

Of the students surveyed, 40% commuted to school, although all owned fuel-efficient cars. The students said they had reduced their driving time and were using apps like GasBuddy to find the cheapest gas in the area.

According to Instructor Sorensen, it is difficult to predict an accurate outlook on inflation right now. “The main question mark is what happens to oil prices, which are set in world markets and are heavily influenced by the war in Ukraine and the resulting sanctions against Russia, as well as the decisions major OPEC producers as to whether they are willing to expand production to ease current shortages,” he said.

U.S. production is rising in response to higher oil prices, but that alone is not enough to offset the reduction in oil production from other countries, Sorensen said. “There is a direct and significant correlation between oil and gasoline prices, so if oil prices stay high, so will gasoline prices.”

Food prices force decisions

A significant increase in food prices, both in grocery stores and in restaurants, in Sonoma County has forced SRJC students to readjust their lifestyle – their grocery shopping as well as their diet – to cope. . “I try to keep expenses to a minimum and only buy what’s essential,” James said.

“When I have to buy groceries, I use Safeway coupons and rewards points to get by,” said SRJC student Cheri Ligotti.

Limiting spending, using coupons and buying items on sale are some of the methods students said they use to fight price gouging.

Recently reopened, SRJC’s Student Resource Center has partnered with Redwood Empire Food Bank Station 3990 and SRJC’s Shone Farm to distribute free food to current students at the Bailey Kiosk, located on the Santa Rosa campus. between Luther Burbank Auditorium and Tauzer Gym to the northwest. corner of the football field. Students must pre-register online, instructions can be found at this link.

According to a summary finding from the United States Department of Agriculture conducted in February 2022, all food prices are now expected to increase between 2.5 and 3.5% and restaurant prices are expected to increase between 4 and 5% this year.

SRJC employee Jennifer Warner only eats out once a month. “I mainly eat home-cooked meals,” she said.

“I’ve noticed a few restaurants I’ve been to have raised their prices,” said SRJC student Julian Watkins.

Students are not the only ones facing difficulties; businesses are also suffering.

The pandemic is contributing to rising inflation rates and since the pandemic began, according to the Press Democrat, more than 70 Sonoma County businesses, including restaurants, have closed permanently.

Due to inflation, an SRJC alumnus recently made the difficult decision to close his business. Chris Tara-Brown, is co-CEO of Unfurl, a virtual food hall where you can order many types of food in one order.

“Most of our initial investors were from Russia, then the war in Ukraine happened. With inflation at 30% and the stock market crashing by over 70%, two investors couldn’t get their money on time. And we didn’t have enough money to operate and had to close,” Tara-Brown said.

During his first State of the Union, President Joe Biden acknowledged the rising cost of goods.

“Too many families are struggling to pay the bills. Inflation robs them of the gains they might otherwise feel,” he said.

Biden has presented several proposals to help families fight inflation. “My plan to fight inflation will reduce your costs and reduce the deficit,” he said.

Grocery store shelves show the impacts of supply chain disruptions with both product holes and price increases. (Courtesy of Bryan Fructuoso)

Inflation hurts many students’ budgets, but there are ways to cut expenses, according to Christine Bauman, who tries to bring wellness practices and self-care skills to individuals, families, businesses and organizations through her husband’s Baumen Wellness Center in Sevastopol. .

“You can find great deals on different days by shopping at Grocery Outlet, Safeway, Costco and now Walmart for organic foods. You can lower the price of your food and save money by buying your food from different stores,” Baumen said.

She recommends preparing food for the week. “It reduces the tendency to just grab a quick bite to go because of hunger,” she said. She also suggested freezing meals to reheat later in the week, planting a vegetable garden, and freezing, dehydrating or canning fruits and vegetables.

“Belonging to food buying clubs where you buy from crates and share with others to save money is another approach to cutting costs,” Bauman said. “Be aware of your real needs. Simpler can be better.


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