Executive Director addresses federal government shutdown
As the federal government shutdown continues to present challenges across the country, it’s also having a tremendous impact on our region’s emergency food network and the people that we serve here in western Massachusetts. The most immediate effect has been the increase in need among those federal employees and contractors who are no longer receiving paychecks. Additionally, while SNAP benefits are funded through February, the future of this federal program is uncertain at this time. This has led to an increased turnout of people seeking food assistance at our partner agencies (comprised of pantries and meal sites) and our own direct-to-client feeding sites. This increase will only continue to grow as the shutdown drags further into the year.
The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts remains open for business through the shutdown and has been working to meet the growing need in our region:
- Federally-funded USDA food only accounts for approximately 15% of our overall food source. We are working closely with our other providers to secure more food.
- We have a short-term disaster relief account reserved for unexpected emergency situations such as this.
- We have identified many partners that are equipped to receive additional food, and we are collaborating with them to get more food to where it’s needed most.
We feel confident that these steps will meet the short-term need for emergency food. However, the uncertainty of the shutdown leaves many questions surrounding the long-term challenges unanswered. Food banks were not designed — and are not equipped — to replace federal nutrition programs. SNAP alone provides twelve meals for every one meal provided through the national network of food banks.
We will continue to take every step necessary to feed our neighbors in need as we work closely with our legislators to facilitate a swift end to this damaging shutdown.
If you or someone you know is in need of assistance, visit our website to find a food pantry, meal site or emergency program near you.