Average price of Thanksgiving meal in Virginia is up from last year

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Virginians will be able to feed their families a Thanksgiving meal for a little over $6 per person this year, according to an informal price survey conducted by the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

The survey of basic grocery items typically found on Thanksgiving tables places the average cost of a traditional meal for 10 adults at $64.24, or $6.42 per person. The menu includes turkey, ham, stuffing, sweet potatoes, russet potatoes, rolls, carrots, green beans, peas, celery, cranberries, milk and pumpkin pie with whipped cream. Prices were reported by volunteer shoppers around the state using no promotional sales or coupons.

A classic Thanksgiving meal without ham, russet potatoes and green beans—all of which were added to the survey in 2018—will cost Virginians an average of $50.57 this year.

This year’s average represents an increase of $11.94 from the 2018 average price of $52.30 for a 10-person meal.

This is the 16th year Farm Bureau has conducted the survey, which is based on an annual survey conducted by the American Farm Bureau Federation.

The Virginia locality with the highest average cost for a meal this year was Williamsburg at $90.68. The locality with the lowest average cost was Hanover County at $40.26.

Based on surveys at grocery stores throughout Virginia, Farm Bureau found the average cost of a 16-pound turkey was $26.35, or about $1.65 per pound. The 2018 average was $1.29 per pound.

The organization found that the average price for a 4-pound bone-in ham was $8.57; a gallon of whole milk was $3.11; for peas, $1.42; for green beans, $1.48; for a pound bag of sweet potatoes, $1.07; for 5-pound bag of russet potatoes, $3.62; for celery, $1.80; for carrots, $1.06; for pie shells, $2.58; for whipping cream, $1.72; for canned pumpkin pie filling, $3.17; for cranberries, $2.61; for stuffing mix, $2.68; and for rolls, $3 a dozen.

In challenging economic times, farmers throughout Virginia are committed not only to producing quality foods, but also to helping those for whom a holiday-style meal might be a luxury.

“It’s not at all unusual for a county Farm Bureau annual meeting notice to include a request that members bring nonperishable food items for donation to a local food bank,” noted Virginia Farm Bureau President Wayne F. Pryor.

Virginia farmers also donate fresh produce and milk to the Federation of Virginia Food Banks, which is made up of seven regional food banks. In 2018 they donated 1.5 million pounds of produce to support the organization’s mission of serving Virginians all year long.

“Food is such a central part of the holiday season. But more than 860,000 Virginians are food-insecure, which means that at some point during the year they struggle to put enough nutritious food on the table for their families,” said Eddie Oliver, executive director of the Federation of Virginia Food Banks.

“We really value our partnerships with farmers, and we know they often sacrifice a lot,” Oliver said. “We know they work hard throughout the year, and we know that times can be tough for them as well, so we appreciate it all the more when they’re able to dig deep and give back. We wouldn’t be able to do any of the work we do if it wasn’t for the food that they grow and produce for us.”

The Federation of Virginia Food Banks welcomes both food and monetary donations. Oliver noted that food banks often can stretch one dollar into four meals because of their partnerships and their buying practices. Virginians can donate to the federation and connect to their local food banks at vafoodbanks.org.

“Virginia farmers take pride in producing quality foods for holiday meals, and for everyday meals as well,” Pryor said. “We wish all Virginians a joyful and satisfying holiday season and hope they will give some thought to their neighbors in need.”

Nationally, an informal survey conducted by the American Farm Bureau Federation found the average cost of a classic Thanksgiving meal for 10 to be $48.91, or $4.89 per person. That represents a 1-cent increase from last year’s national average. A meal that also includes ham, russet potatoes and green beans will cost an average of $62.32, up from $61.72 in 2018.

The increases in the average retail price for ham, whole milk and sweet potatoes are the main drivers behind the slight increase in the cost of the meal, said Dr. John Newton, chief economist for the American Farm Bureau. The national average cost of a turkey fell from $21.71 in 2018 to $20.80 this year.