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Government shutdown threatens food assistance safety net



[From a press release]

With the government shutdown continuing indefinitely, the Rhode Island Community Food Bank is asking the public for assistance to ensure that they have enough food to meet the increasing demand.

Of particular concern is the shutdown’s impact on SNAP benefits, the primary source of food assistance for approximately 157,000 Rhode Islanders. The next round of benefits will be distributed early, on January 20 instead of February 1, which means funds may run short for many families in February. After that, there are no guarantees that there will be benefits for March should the shutdown continue.

“We’re concerned that many more families will start visiting our pantries and meal sites beginning in February as they begin to run out of food,” said Food Bank CEO Andrew Schiff. “Although we hope the shutdown ends soon, we need to be prepared to respond should it continue indefinitely.”

In addition, government employees who have been furloughed and are not receiving a paycheck may also seek food assistance through the Food Bank’s network of 158 agencies located throughout the state.

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“We want to be prepared to provide food to anyone in need in Rhode Island, no matter what the reason, and no matter how long this crisis continues” said Schiff, “so we are asking our friends and neighbors to donate funds so that we can acquire enough food to help ensure that no one goes hungry.”

This message was also shared by Courtney Hawkins, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Human Services (RI DHS), whose office oversees SNAP benefit distribution.

The shutdown, said Hawkins, “reminds us that the safety net for a contingency in this state is our Food Bank and food pantry programs… I always encourage people to ensure that those local organizations and of course the Rhode Island Community Food Bank has the resources that they need, so that in a crisis we can call on them to help us.”

See: Government shutdown may affect SNAP benefits, other programs; Money may run out in March

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About the Author

The Rhode Island Community Food Bank distributes food to 53,000 struggling Rhode Islanders each month through a statewide network of 158 member agencies including food pantries, meal sites, shelters, youth programs and senior centers. The Food Bank solicits food donations from the public and from the food industry, including supermarkets, food manufacturers and growers. To keep up with the high demand for food assistance, the Food Bank also acquires food at low cost from wholesalers. This year, the Food Bank distributed 10.6 million pounds of food. The Food Bank is a member of Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization.