Grocery prices here declined for the second month in a row during August, although the drop was not as great as in the rest of the country, the Labor Department said yesterday.
The decline was 0.5 percent, according to the latest consumer price index. During July, however, food prices went down 0.6 percent.
In particular, a 3 percent decline in prices for meat, poultry, fish and eggs was responsible for the August decline, the government said.
Yet, food prices across the country dropped by 0.7 percent in July.
The government's market basket sampling of groceries now average $24.35 for the metropolitan Washington area, $1.15 more than the same sampling in January, an increase of 7.6 percent. In 1967, the same market basket cost $10.
The samping of food prices from 27 other cities showed that eight had price increases, ranging from 0.8 percent in Anchorage to 0.3 percent in Portland, Ore.
In the Washington area survey, the 3 percent drop in meats, poultry and fish was offset by higher prices for cereal and bakery products, dairy goods and fruits and vegetables.
Dairy prices rose the most dramatically, up by 1.5 percent in August, although dairy prices increased by only 0.1 percent in July.
Although government spokesmen say they hope the decreases signal a slower rate in food price increases during the second half of the year, a number of consumers interviewed yesterday said they had seen little change in their food costs.
"God no, I haven't noticed any price decrease," said D. V. Sandifer, a retired government employee interviewed at a Safeway in Silver Spring.
"With prices as they are, I don't know how people on Social Security without a retirement income can survive," he said.
"Sometimes it's hard to figure out what to have for dinner. I'm eating lots of eggs, pork, and chicken these days. It's hard to find substitutes. Even tuna fish is expensive."
Connie Whitehead, a shopper at a downtown Safeway, said she couldn't believe prices had actually dropped.
"You going to look me in the face and tell me that?" she asked. "Look at these prices and tell me that, I'm just hoping that I can pay for all this stuff I have now."
The manager of a Safeway at 1701 Corcoran St. NW, Don Gochenour, said the prices at his store have not noticeably declined, although the buying patterns of his customers have changed.
"These people are shopping for good buys," Gochenour said of his clientele. "They are looking for a bargain, reading the ads in the newspapers, using coupons."
But Chris Foley, a retired writer and editor, said he cannot find bargains.
"I'm the type that looks around for a buy, and there just aren't that many options," Foley said. "There are not bargains to be had, no matter what the government says. I think they just make up that price index."