Many who rely on SNAP benefits to get their food are likely breathing a sigh of relief after the USDA decided they’ll still receive their benefits through February, despite the government shutdown.
However, many may still be on edge and wondering what they’re going to do when March rolls around.
Local food banks are feeling the pressure. The government shutdown has hit Roadrunner Food Bank hard, forcing them to potentially make tough decisions.
“There’s lots of empty pallet spaces down here. This is not typical this time of year. We usually see this fairly full in spots like this where you would have two pallets back to back, back to back,” said Sonya Warwick, Roadrunner Food Bank’s communications officer.
“There’s a lot of unknown facts. We don’t want to create fear or anything like that. But we want to let people know this is a very serious issue,” said Warwick.
A perfect storm of events: that’s how Roadrunner is describing their current situation.
Last week, they started getting calls from furloughed government workers.
“People who are in need right now, including federal workers, are calling us for access in their communities,” said Warwick.
Warwick says that will add more families to a long list of New Mexicans they already help feed.
“On a weekly basis, 70,000 hungry people are in a food line in our state,” said Warwick.
Many of them also rely on food stamps to feed their families.
While the federal government has extended funding for the program through February, the big concern is if the shutdown continues past that time, those families will need more help from places like Roadrunner Food Bank.
“We know that it will impact our network. We know it will impact people who receive food. Our hope is that there will be some kind of agreement that will get the government back to work,” said Warwick.
Since Roadrunner Food Bank already provides for soup kitchens, group homes, schools, and senior sites across the state, they’re going to need a lot more food.
Warwick says that’s the problem.
“The type of product we haven’t been seeing is that national loads of food. I’m talking tractor trailers of foods that we would typically source through our national organization Feeding America,” said Warwick.
That has left shelves, that are normally stocked, empty, which could make it harder for the supply and the demand to be met.
While lawmakers squabble it out over a border wall on Capitol Hill, Roadrunner Food Bank says their hill is getting steeper to make sure no one goes hungry.
“We want to make sure we have food available. We’re the emergency food provider when situations like this happen,” said Warwick.
The USDA is asking states to issue benefits on Jan. 20, earlier than usual, to take advantage of a temporary funding measure.