FoodBank Responds to Shutdown and Prepares for Uncertainty

The federal government shutdown brought to light what we at the FoodBank have long known – millions of Americans are one missed paycheck away from needing assistance to make ends meet. Many federal workers who typically support the FoodBank faced hunger for the first time in their lives and turned to our network of food pantries to put food on the table for themselves and their families.

Hunger remains an issue despite the government temporarily reopening, as many federal workers have emptied their savings accounts or racked up credit card debt to pay their bills during the shutdown.

News12 New Jersey reported on the FoodBank’s emergency food distribution at Newark Airport on January 23, showing that the shutdown’s impact on hunger was dire. Workers faced impossible choices, like deciding whether to pay for food or other bills.

“It’s a struggle because I have no money for food, no diapers for my kids,” said James Wallace, a TSA agent who came to the distribution to get food for his family. He went on to describe the stack of unpaid bills sitting on his kitchen counter at home, saying that without his paycheck, he and his wife have been skipping meals to feed their four young children.

Visit our press page to see the latest news coverage on the government shutdown and the FoodBank’s response.

Food Assistance for Those Affected by the Shutdown

If you need food assistance, our network of more than 1,000 community partners is here to help: find one near you.

SNAP Benefits: “Recipients Should Plan Accordingly”

The New Jersey Department of Human Services announced that New Jersey SNAP recipients would receive their February benefits on January 17, 2019, about two weeks earlier than usual. These benefits will have to last them through the end of February.

“SNAP is a critical program, so while we are making sure that the February SNAP benefit will be received, recipients should plan accordingly,” said Human Services Deputy Commissioner Elisa Neira. “The February benefit is being paid early and if the federal shutdown continues, it’s uncertain when the next benefit will be paid.”

About 730,000 people in our state are expected to run out of this important food assistance at the beginning of February because of the early disbursement of benefits, forcing them to seek extra help from food pantries and soup kitchens all month long.

Our NJ SNAP-Ed team partners with agencies and schools throughout New Jersey to help SNAP recipients stretch their food dollars further and make healthy choices on a limited budget.

Food retailers and other businesses are also suffering the effects of the shutdown. CNN lists 91 direct effects of the shutdown on the economy, businesses, security, and more.

The FoodBank’s SNAP Outreach team can help you apply or recertify for SNAP benefits.

Food Assistance for Federal Workers

The Community FoodBank of New Jersey and its network of more than 1,000 local agencies are here to provide food for our neighbors in need, including furloughed federal workers. Please visit our Find Food page to locate an agency near you.

The Press of Atlantic City spoke with FoodBank President & CEO Carlos Rodriguez, who expressed the challenges faced by the food bank, its network, furloughed workers, and those who faced the potential loss of their SNAP benefits: “Everyone will feel it,” Rodriguez said. “People are already struggling with making ends meet, and having to budget money for basic needs like this will take away from other components. People are already making tough choices.”

Many of the FoodBank’s partner agencies saw an influx of visits from furloughed federal workers, many of whom felt embarrassed to be visiting food pantries for the first time.

Support Those Affected by the Shutdown

With the state’s overall food insecurity rate at 10%, the FoodBank’s resources are already stretched and will become even more strained if the government shuts down again and federal employees miss more paychecks. We also anticipate heightened need in February as families run out of their SNAP benefits.

“The FoodBank is here when our hungry neighbors need it,” said Carlos Rodriguez, President & CEO of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, “but we can’t make up for the loss of the $80 million worth of food that SNAP provides each month to food insecure families.”

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