Impact of the Government Shutdown
The shutdown of the federal government has had an impact on the number of people facing hunger in the 16-county service territory served by Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin. Individuals impacted fall within two groups, those whose livelihood depends on paychecks or payments received from the federal government, and those who rely on food assistance programs funded by the federal government.
FURLOUGHED FEDERAL EMPLOYEES AND CONTRACT WORKERS
We currently have hundreds if not thousands of federal employees in southwestern Wisconsin who are facing uncertain times. While their paychecks may have stopped, the need for food and to pay their mortgage and other bills continue. The challenges and uncertainties that these federal workers are now facing are just like the challenges that many of our friends and neighbors face when they are not earning enough money or working enough hours due to no fault of their own.
While the number of people in our area whose income has been negatively impacted by the shutdown is relatively small compared to other parts of the country, the impact to their families can be nothing short of devastating. Thanks to the generosity of our many donors, partners, and volunteers, we are confident in our ability to absorb the (hopefully) short-term increase in need.
Those struggling to make ends meet should call United Way's 2-1-1 to find the nearest emergency food assistance provider.
GOVERNMENT FOOD ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS
The second front we are concerned about is how an extended government shutdown will affect federal nutrition programs, specifically FoodShare (SNAP, formerly food stamps). The reality is that in the state of Wisconsin the FoodShare program provides almost as much food assistance in one month as the entire Feeding America network of emergency food providers in the state does in one year!
Those of our friends and neighbors who rely on FoodShare to provide enough nutritious food to maintain a healthy lifestyle have received their last benefit deposit until the program gets more funds allocated to it. While this last deposit was intended to supplement their existing food resources until the end of February, we know many will run out before the end of the month. When they run out, we anticipate that they will turn to our network of emergency food providers for help.
The potential surge in the number of people seeking help as a result of their FoodShare benefits running out could present a significant challenge for Second Harvest and our partner agencies and programs. The challenge lies not in having access to enough food, but in the logistical and infrastructure challenges with transporting, storing, and distributing enough food to meet the need.
Despite the challenges that we could be facing in the near future, we are committed to doing everything we possibly can to meet the needs of those facing hunger in our area.
WHAT CAN YOU DO
Many have asked what they can do to help during the government shutdown. Here are three things you can do to help:
- Contact your elected officials and ask them to work together to find a pathway forward through this impasse and get the government working again
- Contact your local food pantry, meal site or shelter and give the most valuable gift you can give...your time
- Organize a food and fund drive to benefit your local emergency food provider or Second Harvest Foodbank