We received the following statement from Natasha Thompson, President & CEO of Food Bank of the Southern Tier, regarding the impact the partial federal government shutdown is having on hunger relief:
“The federal government has now tied its record for the longest shutdown of the modern era at 21 days. Earlier this week, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it will provide states with funding to continue federal nutrition programs through February. We are relieved that important benefits like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), WIC and school meals will continue until the end of February for families and individuals who need assistance.
However, since the shutdown began on December 22 the USDA has not been able to provide funds that help offset the cost for our Food Bank to distribute USDA food in our community. These additional costs were not anticipated and will be harder for us to absorb over time.
We are very concerned about what happens to federal nutrition programs if the shutdown continues past February and federal nutrition programs like SNAP and WIC can’t be funded. If the shutdown continues into March, benefits will end. When that happens, millions of low-income families, seniors, veterans, people with disabilities, and federal employees (who are either furloughed or are working without pay) will face hunger, including 67,000 SNAP recipients here in the six counties served by our Food Bank.
Our network is already seeing an increase in demand for food assistance from families and individuals who are experiencing hardship due to the shutdown. We anticipate further need as furloughed federal employees and contractors miss paychecks, and the impact on household budgets could linger for many months after the loss of funds.
Our Food Bank stands at the ready in any crisis, and this shutdown is no different. However, for every meal our food bank provides federal programs like SNAP provide far more, and we are concerned demand could exceed our capacity if funding for these critical programs is not restored soon. It is disgraceful that the programs serving our most vulnerable citizens and other vital services are being held hostage by our government’s inability to put ideology aside and compromise for the good of the nation.”