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Skips meals. Collects debt. How inflation is pushing single parents.

It has caused many single parents to skip meals so that their children have plenty of food, provide less healthy meals for their families and kill expenses to the point where unforeseen costs can mean more debt – or worse.

“It’s a really hard game to figure out what I can do, what I can not do, and how can I squeeze a little more money here and there?” said Elisabeth Mendes Saigg, 33, whose husband died of sudden heart failure in 2020 at the age of 37. Mendes Saigg was left to raise their two-year-old son, Khayonni, alone.

Elisabeth Mendes Saigg and her son, Khayonni.

For a time after her husband’s death, she received food stamps to help with grocery expenses, but after she was able to start working again – teaching high school biology – she was no longer eligible. Her $ 25,000 annual income will also soon make her unable to receive the benefits of her spouse’s death. from social security. Between the loss of survivors’ benefits and nutrition assistance, the mother in Fort Pierce, Florida, will have $ 700 less available per month this year than she had last year.

She says she has cut back across all aspects of her daily life: She wants to keep the air conditioner warmer to ease the energy bill (by sacrificing the luxury of a cool house on hot Florida days), she is not no longer able to enroll her son in gymnastics, she has taken on an extra mentoring role at work, and she has made a box of pasta that suffices for four meals for herself so that Khayonni, now three and a half years old, could enjoy his favorite hot dogs and salads.

Living payslip to payslip

In March, about 30% of single parents, when asked by Morning Consult, said their household finances were worse than average, compared to just over 22% of all adults.
During the 12-month period ending in March 2022, single parents say they earned about 16% less than adults in general per month and spent about 8% less per month, according to data from Morning Consult.

While adults generally consistently report a solid difference between average monthly consumption and income, single parents have a much smaller difference, said John Leer, chief economist at Morning Consult.

“If there are no variables for our month, no one should go to the doctor, no one should go to the dentist … then all my bills will be paid with less than $ 100 left each month. If there is a variable that something goes wrong, then something is always paid too late, “said Shae Beery, a 44-year-old resident of Nashville, Tennessee who has raised his now 10-year-old son, Kingston, on his own.

Jessica Ridout and her two children have adopted a more vegetarian diet due to rising food prices.

When prices start to rise, single parents have less opportunity to cut further, so they buy less food at the grocery store and end up putting more expense on their credit card. Over the past three months, several of those balances have become unpaid, Leer said.

“On a month-to-month basis, single parents really do not have much extra space to help cover the costs,” he told CNN Business. “They really live paycheck to paycheck. They take their income and redirect them immediately to expenses, which means they do not have savings that allow them to cope with any unforeseen storm.”

In Brooklyn, New York, Jessica Ridout, 41, and her two children, ages 8 and 10, have adapted to a more vegetarian diet due to rising grocery prices.

Before the pandemic, Ridout would spend about $ 50 to $ 75 a week on food. The weekly bill is now $ 100 to $ 125, she said.

No longer doing it in the basket are items like sparkling water, treats, junk food and, most recently, meat.

“Meat is expensive and I would be lying if I did not say I would not kill for a good piece of salmon once a week,” she said.

But she can not justify the indulgence of a $ 17 piece of salmon when she can use vegetables to make a two-week lunch at that price, she said.

Belt tightening is not just at the grocery store. A few weeks ago, Ridout’s car started smoking. After sending a video to a friend, it was determined that there was an oil leak the probable culprit. Instead of taking it to a mechanic, she went to AutoZone, spent $ 14 on an oil leak additive, and crossed fingers.

Fear of a recession

While the Biden administration and the Federal Reserve are looking to counter rising prices, families are preparing for the potential for a recession – and higher interest rates – as part of this solution.
Important inflation data that will be released this week, including the latest data for the consumer price index on Wednesday, is likely to provide further indication that high costs will not disappear in the near future.
It is pushing the Fed to continue raising its benchmark rate in an attempt to cool the economy. But while it may reduce consumer demand, it will also increase borrowing costs – and it will hit families hardest, relying more on credit cards or other loans to make ends meet each month.

“The likelihood of us experiencing a further downturn is rising right now, which is likely to reveal some of the most vulnerable households,” said Morning Consultant Leer.

Volunteers and members of the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano counties help distribute food to people in need.  The Food Bank has seen an increase in demand in recent months due to higher inflation.
The pandemic has already pushed America toward higher food insecurity, a trend that has only accelerated with the recent rise in inflation: In March, nearly two-thirds of the 200 Feeding America food banks reported an increase in demand for food aid.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano counties in Northern California’s East Bay has seen a 40% increase to 60% in its customer base, from 178,000 people a month to as high as 300,000 customers a month, said Cassidie ​​Bates, the food bank’s government and public affairs manager.

She has also seen an increase in the number of customers coming to the food bank, including people who had never experienced food insecurity before.

“A bad month is enough to put some people back,” she said, adding that she expects the increased demand to remain for at least the next few years.

“When individuals fall into food insecurity and poverty, it is very cyclical, difficult to escape and difficult to get back on its feet,” she said.

JR Young, 68, from Colorado Springs, Colorado, is raising his 17-year-old grandchild with a steady income.

After living with a disability for 32 years and with a steady income, 68-year-old JR Young from Colorado Springs, Colorado, has plenty of experience making every dollar count – a prospect that became easier with the support of his wife as they raised their now 17-year-old grandson.

But after Young’s wife died in March 2021, meeting these monthly expenses became increasingly challenging, especially as prices began to rise. Canned and frozen foods have now replaced fruits and vegetables; the roast beef he buys for his grandson has increased by 33%; and the end of the month typically means Young does not have fresh milk in the house and he survives solely on peanutbutter sandwiches.

“It’s right down to the thread at the end of the month,” he said. “I monitor my servings, monitor bread slices, monitor butter bars to be safe.”

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