US Food Banks brace for demand resulting from government shutdown

With the U.S. partial government shutdown in its fourth week, it isn’t only federal employees who are feeling the strain. America’s poorest are also facing an uncertain future, as the federal aid on which they depend is under threat.

CGTN’s Alasdair Baverstock reports.

As the longest government shutdown in US history drags on, the future of food stamp delivery is anything but certain.   

Some 38 million Americans rely on the federal aid program, known officially as SNAP. 

To provide February’s benefits, officials had to get creative and February payments will not go out early, in January.  

But if the shutdown lingers into March, this critical assistance for low-income families may be in jeopardy.  

It’s causing worry across the country, especially at the nation’s food banks, which are charitable organizations providing food for the most marginalized in society. 

But as the longest government shutdown in U.S. history continues, these organizations are bracing for an influx of people who aren’t getting paid, and suddenly struggling to feed their families. 

Kim Cox, who runs the Father McKenna food bank, said her team is ready.

“I feel pretty confident that we have enough supply to get us through this government shutdown”, Cox said. “But I think that the stress that it’s causing on these families is absolutely unconscionable and unnecessary.”

Last Saturday, the capital’s largest food bank set up aid stalls for federal government workers, who haven’t had a paycheck since the end of December.  

It can be a humbling experience for those caught up in the shutdown.

“I think a lot of people’s pride gets in their way, in not going to the food banks. And then they don’t know the programs that are out there”, said Anthony Wade, a US Postal worker and resident of Brentwood, where many residents depend on federal aid for food.

“It goes back to that pride, some people don’t want to take that assistance, because they’ve worked so hard to get off food stamps, and they don’t want to go back to it.”

Yet the shutdown has many analysts questioning just how the additional stress and suffering is.

“This is really about Power Politics at this point”, Lester Munson, a political analyst said.

“It’s really over a couple billion dollars which is a drop in the bucket in the U.S. federal budget, so it’s really not about the money, and it’s not so much about the policy. The longer this goes on, the more issues we’re going to see where people’s lives are impacted by the federal government failing them.”

With negotiations to end the shutdown deadlocked, hope remains that the sight of bread lines on the capital’s streets might help tip the balance, and motivate lawmakers to get government working once more.