Mary Rader knows how to make her food budget stretch – she’s been doing it her entire life.
She shops sales, buys in bulk and visits the food pantry in Grand Forks, North Dakota. In addition, she receives $135 in SNAP benefits each month.
But since the COVID-19 pandemic reached her community, she has found it more difficult to afford her groceries.
“Having SNAP helps, but with prices these days it’s hard to make it work,” she says. “Store prices are going up all the time.”
The Consumer Price Index for meats, poultry, and fish has gone up 9.8% since May 2019, according to data published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In the grocery store, Mary has noticed that the cost of ground beef and other staples have gone up considerably.
“Now I have to wait for big sales before I buy,” she says. “And I split up packages and freeze things so I can get more meals. I try to ration things out.”
Mary turns 68 next month and has received SNAP benefits for nearly 20 years. She first applied when her family – she, her husband, and six children – struggled to make ends meet on the family farm near Starkweather.
“Without SNAP, I don’t know what we would’ve done,” she says. “It was touch and go even though we had a garden and I canned a lot.”
Over the years, Mary’s situation has changed but her financial needs haven’t. Her husband passed away and her children are now grown, but she still needs food assistance.
Mary worked for a few years, but osteoarthrits took a toll on her body. She receives monthly disability and social security payments, which go towards her rent, electricity, phone, transportation, and care for her small dog, Pepper.
Concerned about her health, Mary has barely left her townhome in recent months. One of her daughters has helped pick up groceries. A son delivers pantry staples like macaroni when he finds them on sale at Walmart in Fargo.
“I took care of them (my children) and now they help me when they can,” she says.