New law helps food pantries save at checkout

Food pantries across Mississippi will soon have a little more change in their pocket, thanks to a state law taking effect Tuesday.

Senate Bill 2921, also known as the Jessica Sibley Upshaw Act, exempts "certain charitable organizations" for purchases of non-perishable items used in a food bank, pantry or line.

"This is a huge blessing," said Edwards Street Fellowship Center executive director Ann McCullen.

The food pantry at Edwards Street serves over 1,000 families each month. Over the past year, the center spent 2,324.79 dollars on sales taxes of non-perishable food.

"Which, in our world, translates into over 660 bags of food that go out to our clients," explained McCullen. "That is a huge savings."

For the folks at Christian Services in Hattiesburg, the new law certainly helps their budget, but not quite as much since much of their operations is in the soup kitchen.

"The things like the paper goods and the cleaning items and the other things that go into preparing the food to put it before the people," said Christian Services vice president Cookie Prout as she listed off big budget items in the kitchen.

Christian Services does operate a food bank as well, and Prout said any savings goes a long way.

"We are always glad for anything that can help us," she said.

In order to certify for the exemption, organizations must send the state tax commission three items: 501c3 letter; charitable agency letter from the Secretary of State's office; and something to prove they are a food pantry, bank or line.

Edwards Street applied for that certification as soon as they got word of the bill on Monday, and they are going to take advantage of the savings immediately.

"We had planned to go grocery shopping tomorrow (Tuesday) because Thursday is our next pantry day, but we'll just delay that until Wednesday," said McCullen.

The law takes effect Tuesday, July 1.

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