Government shutdown has local food banks worried

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- Thousands of working families in Merced County depend on the SNAP program, also known as the food stamp program, to feed themselves and their kids.

If funding runs out, pantries like the Merced County food bank are bracing for a lot of poeple who'll be seeking food, and there may not be enough on the shelves to feed everybody

The ongoing government shutdown is threatening the way millions of Californians put food on the table.

"There's a lot of uncertainty out there about where people's benefits are going to be and do they need to make alternative plas and go to the food bank instead," said Andrew Cheyne of the California Food Bank Association.

The SNAP program received emergency funding to continue through February.

If SNAP funding does run out, many would have to turn to food banks to eat.

The executive director of the Merced County Food Bank says about 51,000 people in the county are enrolled in CalFresh.

If the program is interrupted, the food bank would have to brace for an enormous influx of folks in need.

"We're already serving 15,000-17,000 people. Even if we subtract those from the 51,000 people who are receiving Cal Fresh, that means there's 30,000 more, and we don't have the capacity to serve them," said Bill Gibbs of the Merced County Food Bank.

Cheyne says the shutdown is also impacting retailers who need certification to process SNAP purchases.

"Because those staff for USDA are implicated during the shutdown, they can't process those applications," Cheyne said.

Gibbs is hoping for an end to the shutdown, otherwise, he says many families who rely on the program could go hungry.

If SNAP funding runs out, Gibbs says they'll have to turn to the community for both monetary and food donations to keep up with the demand.

The spokesperson for the association tells us that for every meal the food pantry provides, the SNAP program provides 12.

That shows how valuable this program is ,and why they say it's so necessary.

The association says they're working with the state administration and hopefully find some source of temporary funding, but what will happen is still unknown.
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