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Hosting Thanksgiving dinner? Better make it potluck

Thanksgiving dinner stock photo
Brent Hofacker
Adobe Stock
Buying what you need for Thanksgiving dinner is going to cost you more this year.

Thanksgiving dinner is going to take a bigger bite out of your wallet this year.

The jump in prices for a traditional holiday meal is the largest in three decades. That’s how long the American Farm Bureau Federation has been conducting its yearly, informal survey of grocery store prices.

In New York, food prices are up about 26% over last year, the survey showed. Meaning you’ll pay about $13 more to feed a gathering of 10 with a 16-pound turkey.

Not only will the bird cost more, but so will everything else, from stuffing mix and frozen pie crusts to brown-and-serve rolls and a bag of russet potatoes.

A chart shows average prices collected by volunteers with the New York Farm Bureau at stores across the state in mid- to late-October this year compared to a similar period last year.
New York Farm Bureau
The chart reflects average food prices collected by New York Farm Bureau volunteers as part of an informal survey. The data is meant to provide a snapshot from across the state between Oct. 18-30. Volunteers did not take advantage of special deals or promotions, and were encouraged to shop online.

Inflation, supply chain disruptions, the war in Ukraine and bird flu all are contributing, in some fashion, to drive up costs, officials said. General inflation has been between 7% and 9% in recent months, while the latest Consumer Price Index report showed a 12% increase in food prices over the past year, said Roger Cryan, the federation's chief economist.

National estimates on holiday meal increases were much lower but still in double digits.

"Oh, the prices are way, way up. We every day talk about what a pop costs, how much simple stuff done gone up already in the neighborhood," said Maggie Harris, who lives in northeast Rochester and leads Community Lutheran Ministry on Joseph Avenue.

Maggie Harris has been a regular at Community Lutheran Ministry on Joseph Avenue in Rochester for more than 30 years. She announced her retirement in 2016, but never left.
Brian Sharp
Maggie Harris has been a mainstay at Community Lutheran Ministry on Joseph Avenue in Rochester for more than 30 years. She announced her retirement in 2016, but never left.

Each year, Lutheran Christian Ministries serves a free Thanksgiving meal of donated food to anyone in need. Harris expects to feed 500 or more people this Saturday.

“And so a lot of families will be able to eat well," she said. "I hear that, you know, a lot of people got a lot of stuff they donating, and giving out to people."

It's a blessing, she said, as people tend to look past the higher prices when it comes to helping their neighbors.

"That's the generosity of people's hearts," she said.

There nonetheless are many struggling with the higher prices.

The Farm Bureau survey found increases in nearly every category of holiday fare. And food inflation has been an issue for some time. In areas dependent on corner stores, the price increases are compounded.

Charts showing food insecurity rates ibn the nine-county Finger Lakes and Western New York regions as compiled by Common Ground Health.
Common Ground Health
The percent of adults who always or usually have concern about having enough money to buy nutritious meals is less than those worried about housing, but 21% of the lowest income group experience food insecurity, according to Common Ground Health.

"As many of us gather with family and friends for a special meal, it’s a time for giving thanks and doing our part to help those who can’t afford a big holiday feast,” Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said in a statement, noting that state and local bureaus partner with food banks across the country "to help ensure no one goes hungry.”

Food prices in New York were slightly higher than national averages, according to the Farm Bureau survey. Prices were lowest in the South, highest in the West.

"I think it's gonna get worse, and then it's gonna get better," Harris said. "And so we all know that. So we just kind of keep chugging along."

Many people started shopping early last Thanksgiving, and are likely doing the same this year, hoping for deals. But experts say waiting could prove beneficial as turkey prices are already dropping.

A Wegmans spokesperson says their supply chain and inventory are in better shape this year than last. Tops, meanwhile, is promoting a $25 dinner package, complete with a 12-pound frozen turkey.

Brian Sharp is WXXI's business and development reporter. He has been covering Rochester since 2005, working most of that time as an investigative reporter with the Democrat and Chronicle. His journalism career spans nearly three decades.