Lauderdale County, Miss. According to statistics, many families in the twin states do not have enough food to eat. Numbers from Feeding America show that the national household food insecurity rate is 14.7%. Mississippi has the highest rate in the nation at more than 20%. Alabama has the fourth highest rate at almost 18%. Today a new law took effect in Mississippi to help address this problem.
Senate Bill 2921, also known as the Jessica Sibley Upshaw Act, exempts charitable organizations that qualify from paying sales taxes when buying non-perishable items that are used in food banks, food pantries, or food lines.
"It'll save us a lot of money," says Dr. Greg Massey, Missions Director for the Lauderdale County Baptist Association. "We feed about 4,000 families a year here in our organization, and about 10% of our food is donated. So, we purchase about $5,000, or average probably, $5,000 of purchased food per month here."
According to Massey the new law could help his agency save about $350 a month in sales tax expenses. He says that money that could be used to help the association buy more groceries and feed even more people.
"A lot of our people come because they are retired, and they're on a minimum Social Security, and they just don't even make the poverty line by being on the minimum Social Security. And I can't even try to imagine trying to live on $600 a month today."
There are currently 171 registered food pantries in Mississippi; seven of those are in Meridian. The city of Jackson has the most in the state with 29.