ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — As the U.S. economy continues to grapple with the highest inflation level seen since 1982, consumers are feeling its effects at the grocery store. As a result, a local community garden says there has been an uptick in visitors.

Experts say an overall 8.8% increase in food prices is causing some to skip out on essential food in their diet, like protein. So having access to free produce can make all the difference in these unprecedented times.

A plot of land, located on Park Avenue and Court Street, behind Second First Church in the city’s downtown, is home to the Jeremiah Community Garden.

“The garden is a gift to Rockford. It’s a gift to people who need fresh produce,” says Sue Kanthak, executive director at Jeremiah Development, an outreach group serving the Coronado-Haskell neighborhood.

According to Kanthak, the garden is pretty established. It’s been feeding the neighborhood since 2010.

“[In] this area of town, there’s not a grocery store that’s easily accessible other than by city bus, so this is a place where people [who] don’t have a lot of means can come. They can get whatever food they want,” says Kanthak.

Kanthak says there are 32 beds full of produce that the people requested.

“We’ve got tomatoes, and eggplants, and zucchini, and broccoli and we have several different kinds of greens, collard greens, mustard greens,” Kanthak describes.

Foods like these are priced significantly higher in the stores. According to Forbes, you can expect to pay nearly 6% more for fresh vegetables. But here it’s free.

Kanthak adds, “If you think, just in this 5 block area, we have four subsidized high-rises for people with disabilities or senior citizens that are living on a fixed income. The prices are going up, their income is not going up. So we’re seeing a lot more people using the garden.”

Anyone interested in helping with the upkeep of the garden can stop by on Saturday mornings at 9 a.m., no experience is needed.