Food prices at Washington-area grocery stores rose by 3.7 percent last year compared with a 2.2 percent increase in 1983, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported yesterday.

The jump parallels the overall consumer price index increase of 3.7 percent for the year. As usual, food costs here were slightly higher than the national average, which amounted to 3.6 percent in 1984.

December prices dipped by one-half of 1 percent. Most of the growth in food prices was concentrated during the early part of the year. In the first three months, fresh fruit prices soared in the aftermath of a December chill that damaged citrus crops. For the year as a whole, fruits and vegetables went up by 7 percent. A similar acceleration in produce prices is also likely this winter following this week's bitter cold.

The biggest factor in year-to-year increases was the price of fresh milk. Prices for all dairy products soared by 8.6 percent, versus a 0.1 percent rise the previous year.

The only category of food that declined in price during 1984 -- and by a mere 0.1 percent -- was meat, poultry, fish and eggs. The subcategory of meat, poultry and fish, however, edged up 1.7 percent. Cereal and bakery product prices rose by 7 percent. All other types of food at home jumped 2.8 percent in price.