KU students see it every time they go to the grocery store.
One of the ways COVID-19 has impacted KU students’ lives are by raising grocery prices. The bottom line in the pandemic is that food prices are up nationwide—and KU students are feeling it in their wallets.
“I remember meat prices were relatively cheap before,” said Tianjing Rong, a junior in the school of education who lives in an off-campus apartment. “In January last year, I remember I could buy three pounds of Kroger 80% lean ground beef for $10 at Dillons. Now I need to spend about $13. COVID-19 has made me spend more money on food and meals.”
According to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the price of food prepared at home rose 4.3% for Americans from March through June 2020, the first three months of the pandemic, after rising 1.1% over the previous 12 months. Beef prices led the way, rising more than 20% from March to June 2020.
According to the report, the beef price increase contributed to a 10% rise in the overall price of beef, pork, poultry, fish and eggs in the same period. The cost of non-meat food also rose meaning consumers, such as KU students, have had a tough time avoiding higher prices even by shifting away from meat.
Rong said he has responded to increased grocery prices by trying to buy larger amounts of food at big warehouse grocers that offer price discounts.
“I choose to go to Costco every two to three weeks,” Rong said. “I buy things worth about $400, including drinks, meat, fruits, toilet paper and everything else I’ll need in the next few weeks.”
Rong also said he has become more of a comparison shopper.
“The internet allows me to understand food prices more deeply and freely,” Rong said. "Through the internet, I can compare prices of the same product from different companies. I can even check the price changes of a product in recent months.”
Students eating most of their meals on campus say they haven’t noticed the impact of rising food costs as much.
“I didn’t feel the substantial changes in food prices caused by COVID-19,” said Cora Leadbetter, a freshman in the school of business who lives on campus. “The reason is I always have my meals at campus restaurants, such as Mrs. E's.”
Though Leadbetter said she eats out sometimes, she relies first on her meal plan.
“The most important thing is that I have already spent money on my meal plan,” Leadbetter said. “I don't want to spend extra money to buy food.”
Some students who shop for groceries say they are spending more time planning their lists to try to save money.
“COVID-19 didn't let me spend more money on food,” said Alize Z. Jackson, a junior in East Asian studies.
Jackson works at the small convenience store on Daisy Hill, where she says she gets some of her groceries. Jackson said she is trying to be more careful about what she buys so she doesn’t increase her spending on food.
“I will buy food at KU because it suits me well," Jackson said. “For me, KU stores have a wide range of food and reasonable prices.”
Staying on campus to shop has other benefits for students, too.
“Buying food at KU can also help me save transportation costs," Jackson said. “If I go downtown or to other markets to buy food, I will spend extra on fare and time.”