VIDEO: Melissa Assalone explores trends in rising food prices
by David Slipher
During a Wilder School Lunch and Learn virtual presentation, Melissa Assalone, who oversees the day-to-day operations of the Virginia Food Industry Association and serves as the organization’s primary lobbyist at the General Assembly, shared key factors contributing to rising food prices in Virginia and across the country.
Assalone began her presentation by sharing that the three levels of consumer goods, production, manufacturing and retailing, were all significantly impacted by the pandemic for different reasons. She indicated that as products move down the food cycle, pricing becomes less volatile, but that wide swings in production resources reverberate through the whole system. Energy, water, fuel, transportation and other commodity demands compounded production costs.
“These increases really further exacerbated already high production and transportation costs, and contributed further to inflationary grocery store prices, resulting in challenges even getting products onto shelves,” Assalone said.
Other less obvious factors, such as the onset of Russia’s war against Ukraine, created supply shortages that drastically impacted oil and gas prices. Combined with the pandemic, these disruptions have continued to create long-term price increasesand prices have remained strained due to other economic factors like inflation and population growth.
As a lobbyist for the Virginia Food Industry Association, which formed shortly before the pandemic, Assalone’s mission is to advance retail and food industries as well as provide resources for legislative issues. The VFIA informs policymaking for state and federal regulations, labor laws and many other issues across the food industry.
Assalone went on to describe some hopeful price stabilization and positive economic indicators for the near future. Her organization is working to help shorten supply chains to ease product shortages, among other initatives. Assalone also fielded audience questions on resource-conserving farming production methods like hydroponics, recycling and food accessibility programs.
“Any opportunity for folks to have access to the food that they need in their community is key and critical,” she said. “... It's something I personally always remind myself and my members. They are very well aware of that fact as well, and I think that's why a lot of my members are very interested in really looking at food access and food affordability on a policy level.”
About the Speaker
Melissa Assalone oversees the day-to-day operations of the Virginia Food Industry Association and serves as the organization’s primary lobbyist at the General Assembly. She also works on grocery-specific issues like food safety, emergency preparedness and response, and SNAP and WIC. She previously served as deputy legislative director in Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration and as director of government relations for the American Heart Association. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s degree in social work and certificate of nonprofit management from VCU. She is a graduate of the Political Leaders Program administered by The Sorenson Institute.