The winter holidays typically make for busier times at The Open Door Pantry food shelf here in this Twin Cities suburb.
And sure enough, on the Monday before Christmas, the day’s food appointments were chock-full. In the back warehouse, nearly 100 volunteers quickly and methodically sifted through thousands of pounds of freshly donated food.
But the activity isn’t simply a seasonal surge: The daily appointments are booked solid through the end of January, and demand has been overwhelming for The Open Door’s other community-based food distribution events.
While 2023 was the year that meaningful progress was made on slowing down painfully high inflation, 33 months’ worth of fast-rising prices took their toll on many Americans, especially those with lower incomes.
To that point, this year also marks a record year for food pantry visits in Minnesota and beyond — in many cases, by a country mile.
“The years of inflation, they stacked on top of each other,” said Jason Viana, The Open Door’s executive director. “We were seeing the impact of [rising wages], but inflation wiped all that out.”
In 2022, the US saw inflation spike to levels not seen in four decades, and the Federal Reserve was in the throes of a historic rate-hiking campaign to cool it back down.
At the start of this year, inflation had moderated some — the Consumer Price Index had cooled to 6.5% in January 2023 from its 9.1% peak in June 2022. However, the US economic outlook was clouded by ongoing fears that the aggressive Fed campaign would lead to a downturn.
Those dire predictions did not materialize.
It currently appears that the Fed has turned the corner on its lengthy battle to bring down inflation without the economy careening into a recession.
The labor market remains strong,