High cost of eggs hurts people who need an affordable protein source

Eggs are known for their good source of dietary protein and low cost.

Waitress Bree McDonald picks up an order at Tasty Waffle in Romeoville.

Although the price of eggs has decreased slightly, consumers are buying less of them because of the high cost, according to United States Department of Agriculture on Feb. 3.

Maeven Sipes, chief philanthropy officer of the Northern Illinois Food Bank, said the egg prices are impacting the food bank just like “anyone who goes to the grocery store.”

That’s a huge impact.

The Northern Illinois Food Bank provides 250,000 meals today in 13 counties as part of the Feeding America network and works with more than 900 food pantries, mobile food truck markets and soup kitchens, according to the food bank website.

Sipes said the food bank used to include eggs on all its mobile pantry trucks that distributed food to the community.

“But we can’t do it anymore,” Sipes said.

Sipes said the food bank has adjusted by taking advantage of any price dips. The food bank also found a supplier able to provide eggs to the food bank “at a very decent rate” – but also with limited quality.

“We buy them when we can,” Sipes said. “But not the same volume we used to buy.”

So people who need food are simply getting less eggs, which is a problem.

Eggs are known for their good source of dietary protein and low cost, which makes it an idea food source for people experiencing food insecurity, according to an article published by Oxford University Press in 2021. Approximately 20% of the U.S. population consumes eggs every day.

Sipes said she understands the difficulty in meal planning when people don’t know if they can get eggs or not.

“They’re so versatile and you can use them for so many different things: breakfast, baking,” Sipes said.

Ironically, it’s because of that food insecurity that the food bank has backed off the eggs.

“We have to make a decision: can you buy eggs at that price or use our resources on different types of food where the dollar can stretch a little bit farther,” Sipes said.

The food bank is spending more on fresh produce, which is also nutritious and often too expensive for people with low incomes to buy at the grocery store. The food bank still distributes other sources of protein, such as some frozen meat and dairy products: milk, yogurt and cheese.

Sipes feels egg prices will continue fluctuating until the current Avian flu crisis is resolved and egg supplies increase. But the problem isn’t limited to eggs, it is food prices in general. Sipes estimated the food bank is spending 15 to 20% more on food than it did a year ago.

“It means, again, that the dollar will not go as far,” Sipes said. “And we’re distributing less food.”

People who do need food are also “making their own tough choices and being creative on how they use their resources,” Sipes said.

She encouraged people to search out multiple food pantries and share any food they can’t use with their neighbors. People should also see if they qualify for SNAP benefits if they are not yet receiving them.

People who can afford to donate to the Northern Illinois Food Bank should know that each $1 purchases about $8 of food. Before the pandemic, the food bank purchased approximately 10% of the food it distributed; now that percentage is 25 to 28%.

“It’s a very different world,” Sipes said.

For information and to access the food bank’s Food Finder map, visit solvehungertoday.org.