Grocers daily witness hardworking Alabamians unable to purchase the food they need. Despite wages increasing significantly over the last several years, the rising cost of food has outpaced all other household expenses except transportation.
Factors including the labor shortage, supply chain disruptions, energy prices, severe weather events, and the war in Ukraine have all contributed to these rising prices. Most recently, the avian flu has created havoc in the egg and poultry industry.
Alabama is one of only three states in the nation that does not reduce the sales tax on food. Two of our bordering states, Florida and Georgia, do not tax groceries at all. If you add in the city and county tax, food tax averages between 9-11% across the state. This is a regressive tax, disproportionately affecting those with lower income.
States with the highest grocery tax rates also tend to be the states with the highest rate of food insecurity. According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, “Alabama is the fifth poorest state in the nation, with 17% of adults and 23% of children (1 out of 4) facing food insecurity, or lack of regular access to enough nutritious food for an active, healthy life.” For the elderly, low income, or retired persons with a fixed income, little money is left for food after rent, mortgage, and medicine are covered. At 12.8%, Alabama has the second highest rate of food insecurity for seniors, Feeding America reports.
The average family of four spends $1,000 per month on food at minimum. Cutting the 4% state grocery tax would give each family an extra $40 per month or $480 per year. That is significant. It could mean the difference between having to choose between your prescription co-pay and enough food to feed your family.
Hunger greatly impacts a child’s performance and behavior in school, studies from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry show. Hungry children have lower math scores. They are also more likely to repeat a grade, come to school late, or miss it entirely due to illness.
No one wants to take additional resources away from the Education Trust Fund (ETF) that supports Alabama’s school system. But with Alabama’s budgets experiencing record growth, and the ETF revenue growing steadily over the last nine years, now is the time to act on removing the grocery tax.
We commend the leadership of Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth and his commitment to removing this burdensome tax. I urge all Alabamians to contact their legislators and let them know that the hardworking folks here in Alabama deserve the removal of the sales tax on groceries.
Ellie Taylor is the President & CEO of the Alabama Grocers Association.
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