The state sales tax isn’t charged on food, but Iowa food banks pay an estimated $200,000 every year in sales taxes on other supplies and equipment. Linda Gorkow, executive director of the Iowa Food Bank Association, says that savings will translate into an additional one million meals.
“It provides us an opportunity for us to save funds that have been donated graciously by donors, community members,” she says, “and really put those funds towards feeding hungry people across the state of Iowa.”
Advocates have been lobbying legislators for this move for about a decade. Gorkow says food bank warehouses spend a lot of money on things like fork lifts, trucks, cleaning supplies and refrigeration units — all of which were subject to the state sales tax until this change. While food banks used to focus primarily on shelf-stable food that did not require refrigeration, Gorkow says freezers and coolers are essential to operations now.
“Food banks have gone to really serving our Iowans with healthy food — produce, other perishable items,” Gorkow says. “Our freezers and coolers are very important. We freeze our meat and proteins as soon as we receive them.”
The Iowa Food Bank Association represents the six food banks that serve all 99 Iowa counties. Officials say for a variety of reasons, an estimated 400-thousand Iowans are struggling to afford a reliable supply of food and they rely on local food pantries and food banks for meals.