Food Banks Brace for Government Shutdown

A sign outside the church that reads "Free Food (around back)." During a food distribution at the Salem United Methodist Church in Shoemakersville, PA Wednesday afternoon July 15, 2020. (Photo by Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)

By Sean Kitchen

September 28, 2023

Millions of Pennsylvanians could have trouble finding a hot meal if the federal government shuts down next week. A shutdown could compound food shortage problems that food banks are facing around the country.

 

With the possibility of a federal government shutdown looming, food banks in the Pittsburgh area are bracing for the impact it will have on the community.

A government shutdown threatens the well-being for the millions of Americans who struggle to pay for groceries and sometimes have to rely on food banks. It will also impact government workers and contractors who will miss paychecks, which could jeopardize their ability to put food on their family’s table.

“Any level of government shutdown will have adverse effects across our 11-county service area, including potential impacts to SNAP payments and reduced food supply,” Lisa Scales, president and CEO of Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank said.

“We have also learned from past experience that federal employees, active-duty military members and federal contractor employees will face a new reality of needing help to feed their families.”

A shutdown could hit food banks at one of the worst possible moments. Food banks around the country are facing a food supply crisis and many are struggling to meet sustained and heightened needs. A Feeding America survey found that around 70% of responding food banks reported seeing demand for food assistance increase or stay the same in July 2023 compared to June.

Close to 2 million residents across the commonwealth are at risk of feeling pain even if the shutdown doesn’t last very long. A brief shutdown has the potential to disrupt Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for families if there’s a lack of funding or a delay in processing benefits, or both.

During the 2018 partial government shutdown, which lasted 35 days, the timeline for loading SNAP benefits onto EBT cards was disrupted for all 40 million participants. This caused mass confusion and challenges for family budgeting.

“In my district alone, over 61,000 folks are food insecure. This means that every day, thousands of tough choices are being made—choices that no one should have to face,” Congresswoman Summer Lee (D-Allegheny) said in a statement.

“Seniors are being forced to choose between food or medication, and working families must decide between keeping the lights on or providing their children with nourishing meals. These aren’t just abstract numbers or faceless statistics—these are our people, our community members grappling with the unchosen reality of hunger that will only be escalated by the irresponsibility of a forced Republican shutdown.”

 

Author

  • Sean Kitchen

    Sean Kitchen is the Keystone’s political correspondent, based in Harrisburg. Sean is originally from Philadelphia and spent five years working as a writer and researcher for Pennsylvania Spotlight.

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