The price consumers paid for groceries jumped 1.4% in February and 8.6% over the past year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Thursday.
The monthly increase in what’s known as the “food-at-home index“ was the largest in about two years, but the 12-month increase was the biggest since the period ending April 1981.
Those increases helped drive an overall hike in the Consumer Price Index of 7.9% over the past 12 months, also the largest in 40 years,
“Increases in the indexes for gasoline, shelter, and food were the largest contributors to the seasonally adjusted all-items increase,” BLS said, noting that the gasoline index rose 6.6% in February, accounting for nearly a third of the all-items monthly increase.
"Today’s inflation report is a reminder that Americans' budgets are being stretched by price increases and families are starting to feel the impacts of [Vladimir] Putin’s price hike," President Joe Biden said, referring to the Russian strongman who is conducting a widely condemned invasion of Ukraine.
"A large contributor to inflation this month was an increase in gas and energy prices as markets reacted to Putin’s aggressive actions," Biden said. "As I have said from the start, there will be costs at home as we impose crippling sanctions in response to Putin’s unprovoked war, but Americans can know this: the costs we are imposing on Putin and his cronies are far more devastating than the costs we are facing."
A group of Republican Senators slammed the administration’s economic and energy policy agenda, however.
At a press conference on Capitol Hill, senators including Deb Fischer, D-Neb., Republican Whip John Thune, R-S.D., and Ag Committee Ranking Member John Boozman, R-Ark., urged the administration to allow more U.S. ethanol, oil and natural gas production.
Over the last year, gas prices have risen 38% and natural gas 23.8%.
They also said Biden should focus on curbing rising input costs for farmers.
“Right now, our farmers are trying to make planting decisions, and they need to make those decisions soon … but they also have to take into account that the cost of fertilizer is up 200% [and] gas prices are at an all-time high,” Fischer said. “This increase isn’t just due to what’s happening in Ukraine, it’s due to the administration’s policies.”
Prices across all the six major grocery store food group indexes increased last month and over the past year. Fruits and vegetables rose 2.3%, their largest monthly increase since March 2010, with fresh fruits increasing 3.7% in the month and vegetables rising 1.3%.
“The index for dairy and related products rose 1.9%, its largest monthly increase since April 2011,” BLS noted. Prices for nonalcoholic beverages went up 1.6%.
The index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs jumped 1.2% in February, while cereals and bakery products rose 1.1%.
In the past year, beef prices were up 16.2%, while the index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs increased 13%. Prices for dairy and related products rose 5.2% over the past year. Cereals and bakery products were up 1.3% for the month and 7.8% in the past year.
In the meat category, pork was up 0.7% for the month and 14% for the year. Chicken increased 1.8% for the month and 13.2% over the past 12 months.
The index for food away from home, such as restaurants, rose 6.8% over the last year, the largest 12-month increase since December 1981, BLS said.
By contrast, the index for food at employee sites and schools declined 40.7 % in the past year, “reflecting widespread free lunch programs.”
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