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Food Banks Preparing for Possible Second Government Shutdown


About 800,000 furloughed and unpaid government workers are again receiving paychecks after the end of the 35-day shutdown. But a number of charities are concerned about its lingering effects – and a possible “Round-2.” WUWF’s Dave Dunwoody reports.

The continuance only guarantees normal operations until February 15. If a compromise isn’t reached by then, President Trump is threatening a second shutdown if he doesn’t get money for his southern border wall.

“If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on February 15 – again,” said Trump. “Or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and the Constitution of the United States to address this emergency.”

“We are still working with organizations that had scheduled some distributions onsite before the government reopened,” said Kyle Schoolar at Feeding the Gulf Coast. “And we’re still following up with affected agencies that we had reached out to – or reached out to us – to ensure that we don’t need to continue serving.”

Formerly known as Bay Area Food Bank, Feeding the Gulf Coast serves a 24-county area in the Florida Panhandle, South Alabama, and south Mississippi. Schoolar says they helped provide food to more than 600 families of government workers during the shutdown.

“That’s our mission in the community; we’re here to be that food lifeline whenever people need us; we feed people day-in and day-out,” Schoolar says. “We just were particularly interested, obviously, and wanted to make sure that people were aware we were here for those people affected by the shutdown, just to make sure they could put food on the table for their families.”

Taking care of the furloughed employees called for a mixed approach, says Schoolar, working with governments along with partner agencies at their monthly food distribution events.

“Who normally will host a mobile pantry distribution throughout our service area; neighborhoods that are typically affected or designated as a ‘food desert.’ So we have some agencies that regularly conduct those mobile pantries on a monthly basis.”

Feeding the Gulf Coast is also working with the nationwide organization Feeding America and its 200 food banks, ahead of any second government shutdown.

“Keeping a really good watch on developments as they come down in Washington,” said Schoolar. “We’re also keeping a good pulse on the community that we’re serving and our agencies, making sure that their supplies aren’t going low. We’re also trying to get more food into our warehouse.”

If there’s another government shutdown in two weeks, one potential problem is the strain it could place on all food banks and other such services if the workers affected are the same as those hit the first time.

Feeding the Gulf Coast and other such groups are also watching to see if another shutdown would also affect services such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

“Then you start to dip into federal nutrition programs affecting child nutrition, senior feeding, and also just emergency food assistance,” said Schoolar. “Fortunately, in this most recent shutdown, those programs weren’t impacted. And SNAP benefits were loaded for February on January 20.”

But another government shutdown — especially one in mid-month says Schoolar — could lead to a number of problems, such as what he calls a “SNAP Gap.”

“SNAP benefits are typically utilized within the first 21 days of them being loaded onto an EBT card,” Schoolar says. “That’s our most immediate watch thing because they’re not going to be reloaded until potentially March. So you’re looking at people who may go 50 days between benefits.”

Donations are being accepted at all Feeding the Gulf Coast locations, of what Schoolar calls “shelf-stable” food – canned and boxed items – along with fresh produce, meats, bakery items, et cetera. Cash donations work fine, too. More information can be found at www.feedingthegulfcoast.org.