By Jessie Wagoner
The cost of food continues to rise in McPherson County, as it does throughout the nation. With increased cost comes an increase in the number of families facing food insecurity. Kansas Governor Laura Kelly recently announced her plan to help reduce those costs and save Kansas families money at the grocery store.
Kelly’s plan is to “Axe the Food Tax” and eliminate the state sales tax on food in Kansas. Kansas is one of only seven states in the U.S. who taxes food sales. Currently, Kansas taxes food sales at 6.5 percent, the second highest in the country. Estimations show eliminating the tax on food sales would save Kansas families at least $500 a year.
“A little extra in pockets after that weekly trip to the grocery store goes a long way, and the savings will add up,” Kelly said. “When I sign this bill, a Kansas family of four will save, on average, over $500 on their grocery bill every year.”
More than 350,000 Kansans are facing food insecurity, 12.1 percent of Kansans. This rate is higher than the national average of 10.9 percent. In McPherson County, there are several efforts to help people facing food insecurity. Just this week, a food drive was held to gather food and donations to start a community fridge, which will provide perishable staples, like milk, butter, eggs and meat, for families who are unable to purchase food. There are also a number of blessing boxes located in McPherson in addition to the McPherson County Food Bank.
“I work full-time and make just enough that I don’t qualify for food assistance,” Molly Boyd of McPherson said. “I have two kids to feed, utility bills that keep rising and a rent payment. There are a lot of times that we don’t have enough food at the end of the week before my next paycheck comes.”
For Boyd and many others like her, axing the food sales tax would be a relief. Not only would it be a relief, but that relief would come quickly—right at the cash register. Eliminating the sales tax on food would immediately send money back into the pockets of low-income families and those living on fixed incomes.
“The food sales tax is one of the most regressive taxes we have,” said Valerie Nicholson-Watson, president and CEO of Harvesters. “Low-income families spend a much larger portion of their income on food, so the food sales tax takes the most from those who have the least.”
Reggie Cantu of Inman said his only income is from disability and is fixed each month. Though the cost of utilities, gas, food and other necessities is climbing, he sees no change in his monthly income. In recent months, he has had to rely on blessing boxes and donated food from area churches and organizations to get by. He said he would welcome any opportunity for savings on groceries.
“It is hard to get by,” Cantu said. “I don’t always eat the way I should. I am diabetic, and there are a lot of times my blood sugar goes too low from not having enough food or too high because I am eating cheap food that isn’t very good for me. Not having to pay the tax would mean I could get enough healthy food to get by.”
Kelly will introduce her bill in January of 2022 at the start of the legislative session. Community members are welcome to voice their opinions to local representatives.