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Year of the tomato: How inflation impacts charity that delivers groceries to seniors

Tomatoes are a hot commodity at Pie in the Sky. They deliver groceries to 450 seniors in St. Johns County.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — The cost of food has risen this year. You see it on your grocery receipts. 

For Pie in the Sky, an organization that feeds seniors living in St. Johns County, the increased costs means their donations don’t go as far. They are calling 2021 the Year of the Tomato.

These red, plump fruits are a hot commodity for the seniors who get groceries from Pie in the Sky. They are also an example of the effects of inflation.

It's an economy lesson you can hold in your hand.

“We need to put the tomatoes out. We ran out of tomatoes and you know we have to have tomatoes," Phyllis Wood told her volunteers on the last delivery of groceries before Christmas.

“We just treasure them. These are some beauties," Wood said. 

She's the Senior Program Manager who oversees all the routes and deliveries. Every bag of groceries must have a tomato, but she’s at the mercy of the supply chain.

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“We had to buy these today (from the store) because we ran out of tomatoes," she said. "Tomatoes are something that we don’t run out of at Pie in the Sky. These are like little gems of gold to our seniors, and they love them.”

Inflation has made these even more valuable. Woods says the cost has doubled.

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The seniors panic if their bag doesn’t have red peeking out. Missing tomatoes can lead to made-up mysteries.

“(One senior) called, and there weren’t tomatoes in her bag, and she was very upset because she had plans for the tomatoes," Wood said. "She even asked, 'Do you think one of my neighbors took the tomatoes out of my bag?'”

Wood says the quality of produce supports their seniors' quality of life.

“We want them to grow old in place. We want them to be comfortable where they are," she said. That’s their focus, and it’s why 2021 became the year of the tomato.

As the price went up, their importance became more clear. 

Wood said Delores Weaver, former Jaguars owner and local philanthropist, donated enough to replenish their tomato supply, but they can always use your help. 

Learn how to donate and volunteer here.

RELATED: US consumer prices soared 6.8% in past year, most since 1982

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