Hearing held on rising food prices

May 1, 2008 3:21:44 PM PDT
Rising food prices are making it more expensive to keep food on your family's table. On Thursday, lawmakers listened to how the high prices are hitting people hard. In our continuing series "On the Money," Eyewitness News reporter Emily Smith has more on the hearing.

Senator Charles Schumer says the exploding cost of food and ingredients could soon replace gas prices as American families' biggest complaint.

Everything that comes out of the kitchen at Reinwald's is made by the hands of bakers with things like unbleached flour and whole eggs. But skyrocketing food prices have caused three cost increases at the bakery over the year, and there's no end in sight.

"I think the whole scam for corporate America to make a lot more money," customer Steve Greenspan said.

To figure out what's behind all of the increases and some possible solutions, Schumer headed the first Congressional hearing of the year about food Thursday.

Reinwald's owner sat in on the panel, bringing the eye-popping food prices on Long Island to Washington.

"For example, a bag of bread flour that cost us $17 in 2006 costs $52 today," Rich Reinwald said.

Nationally, the cost of bread is up 15 percent. Eggs are up 25 percent and flour 100 percent.

"Cheese 30 percent, tomatoes are going up about 40 percent as well," said Jimmy Giaccone, of Giaccone's in Mineola.

Eggs and dairy are reportedly up, in part, because it's costing more to feed the animals. Then, mounting pressure to replace traditional fuel with ethanol has farmers devoting more crops to corn for fuel. And that also has them making less of everything else, creating a supply and demand issue.

Schumer says something must be done now to make food affordable.

"I believe anxiety over food prices is going to be just as widespread and will equalor even surpass the anger so many Americans have over gas prices," he said.

Consumers and business owners alike are growing weary of trying to find ways to take lemons and make lemonade. And by the way, lemons have gone up 50 percent in cost since 2001.

At Giaccone's, a slice of pizza has gone from $1.65 to $2.25. That's a 60-cent increase, and it still may be just the beginning.

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