NEWARK, CA – More than a year after the coronavirus pandemic began, stretching a dollar as far as possible to go to bed still hungry remains a daily endeavor for thousands in Newark and elsewhere.

However, a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows how difficult it can be to stretch that dollar right now.

Grocery store prices are rising across the country as the pandemic continues. According to the USDA report, the cost of a supermarket trip is up 3.5 percent year over year – 75 percent higher than the 20-year average.

The reason why food prices are soaring is that more people eating at home during the pandemic have disrupted the country’s supply chain, leaving producers and traders unable to adapt and drive food prices up.

The timing couldn’t be worse.

According to Feeding America, the country’s largest famine relief organization, 10.9 percent of the people in Alameda County were projected to starve due to the pandemic in 2021, up from 8.4 percent in 2019.

Food insecurity could affect 42 million people across the country, according to Feeding America.

Next Tuesday is National Make Lunch Count Day. While the unofficial holiday usually encourages workers to step away from their desks to enjoy lunch, it may have a different meaning this year.

Leading up to compliance, and given soaring food prices, there are a few ways you can get your lunch counted in Newark:

If you have children, attend summer lunchtime programs through your school.

During the school year, 22 million children receive free or discounted school meals through the National School Lunch Program, according to Feeding America. When school is free for the summer, typically only 1 in 6 children will have access to these meals through the USDA Summer Food Service program.

However, the USDA announced a nationwide extension of several exemptions in March that will allow the summer meal program to be rolled out in all areas to feed all school-age children free of charge.

The extension is valid until September 30th.

To learn more about summer meals, families should contact their school to find out how to sign up for free or discounted school meals and how to access those meals. Families can also find summer meal programs using the USDA Meals For Kids Site Finder.

To fill the gaps for students who receive free and discounted lunches and may not be able to attend summer meals in person, the USDA has extended the pandemic electronic power transfer program until this summer. The P-EBT program enables eligible school children to receive temporary benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for grocery purchases.

Children are usually entitled to P-EBT benefits if they would have received free or discounted meals, if their schools weren’t closed, or if personal tuition or attendance were restricted.

RELATED: Pandemic Brings U.S. Child Hunger to the Edge

Sign up for food stamps.

More than 38 million Americans received SNAP benefits before the pandemic hit the United States, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Of the families who receive benefits, approximately 9.5 million have children.

A year after the pandemic started, Americans are still suffering from record unemployment – many for the first time, and some of them have never been in need of government assistance before.

SNAP, better known as grocery stamps, can be a lifeline for these Americans. According to Feeding America, SNAP is aimed at America’s most vulnerable citizens. The program primarily serves households with children, elderly, or disabled members. Almost half of all SNAP participants are children.

Federal eligibility for SNAP is restricted to individuals whose gross income does not exceed 130 percent of the federal poverty line. This means that a family of four cannot earn more than $ 2,633 per month to receive benefits.

To apply for SNAP benefits, you can contact your local SNAP office.

Many Feeding America food banks also offer SNAP application assistance as a tool to help you fill out application forms accurately.

RELATED: How To Apply For Grocery Vouchers: Fight Hunger In America

Buy these “ugly” fruits and vegetables.

Fresh fruit has seen the largest price increase in grocery stores over the past year, according to the USDA. The cost of fresh fruit is 2.5 percent higher than last year.

When shopping on a budget, fresh fruits and vegetables are often sacrificed first because of their higher price. Still, there is a way to enjoy fresh produce without spending an excessive amount of money.

If you have not yet stepped into the wide world of subscription boxes for the home, then “ugly” product boxes should be tried out. In fact, those misshapen apples, ripe bananas, or potatoes with craters are generally just as nutritious and delicious as their perfect-looking counterparts.

Some options to explore are Misfits Market, Hungry Harvest, or Imperfect Foods

Discover ways you can cut your grocery bill.

There are proven ways to reduce the weekly amount of money in the grocery store. If you sacrifice a little time each week, you can get significantly more food for your money.

Here are some things to try:

  • Plan meals in advance.
  • Buy generic drugs.
  • Never buy items at full price. Look for the best sales and coupons.
  • Buy your pantry staples in bulk.
  • When comparing products, check the unit prices (the cost per ounce or per pound).
  • Watch the cash register at the checkout.
  • Plant a garden.

Feeding America serves 200 member food banks serving 60,000 pantries, kitchens, and dining programs nationwide.

Find your local food bank

Donate to Feeding America *

“The impact of coronavirus on food insecurity”

Take action against hunger

Patch has partnered with Feeding America to help raise awareness of the millions of Americans who are starving. Feeding America, which supports 200 food banks across the country, estimates that by 2021, more than 42 million Americans will not have enough nutritious foods to eat due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. This is a social patch project. Feeding America receives 100 percent of donations. * Find out how to donate in your community or find a pantry near you.

– Written by Patch Editor Megan VerHelst with additional coverage from Bea Karnes