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As food prices increase nationwide, students and West Philadelpia residents are feeling the strain on their purse strings.

The price of many food staples, including milk, eggs and bread, rose drastically in 2007, resulting in higher prices at grocery stores and restaurants.

Overall, the average price of food rose at a rate of 5.3 percent for 2007 through the month of November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In comparison, food prices rose just 2.4 percent during 2006.

The price of eggs rose by more than 36 percent from December 2006 to 2007. Bread prices increased by 12.6 percent.

And some students have expressed outrage at the higher prices they face at local grocery stores.

An Engineering sophomore who did not want his name to be used has resorted to thievery from the Fresh Grocer at 40th and Walnut streets to beat the price increases.

"If I think it's overpriced and it fits in my pocket, I'm taking it," he said. "I'm not paying $7 for a thimble-sized bottle of oregano."

Other shoppers, like Julie Micca, who lives on the 4200 block of Chestnut Street with her husband and two children, have taken less extreme measures.

Micca, who shops at Supreme Supermarket on 43rd and Walnut streets, said she now clips coupons before going grocery shopping and looks for the cheapest item, rather than brand names.

"Instead of shopping with a menu in mind for the week, I base my dinners on what's on sale," she said.

Local restaurants are also trying to cope with the price jump.

Rose Li, who is a manager at Cosi on 36th and Walnut Streets, said the restaurant has been forced to raise prices by a small amount in response to the more expensive cost of ingredients, especially milk.

Despite the price increases, Business Services spokeswoman Barbara Lea-Kruger said students should not worry that their meal plans will become more expensive this school year.

"Penn Dining is committed to maintaining prices in all locations, including retail locations, for the remainder of the school year," she said. Lea-Kruger did not say if any Penn Dining price increases would occur after this year.

Penn Dining's partnership with Aramark, a dining-management service, prevents short-term market fluctuations from impacting the price of meal plans.

National brands on campus, however, such as Subway and Chick-Fil-A, may adjust their prices in response to changes in food costs.

Last year's price increases have been precipitated by a number of international and domestic factors, explained Political Science professor Mary Summers, who teaches a class called The Politics of Food.

"We've based an entire food system on cheap corn and cheap soybeans from government subsidies," Summers said, adding that government promotion of using corn in biofuels has altered that system and contributed to food-price increases.

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