The longest federal government shutdown in our nation’s history ended after 35 days. For over a month, furloughed government employees went without paychecks as bills piled up and savings depleted. Our neighbors in need who rely on federal assistance programs saw their benefits issued early or diminished, causing unnecessary uncertainty, anxiety, and pain.
As the shutdown dragged on, many of these households turned to The Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) and our network of over 500 partner agencies for emergency food assistance.
The Cape Cod Military Support Foundation, one of GBFB’s agencies, serves members of the Coast Guard and their families. Unlike other military branches working under the Department of Defense, the Coast Guard falls under the Department of Homeland Security, which operated without funding during the shutdown, forcing thousands of service members to work without pay.
Without paychecks or the ability to find supplemental work, many of these service members needed help putting food on their tables. To meet this unanticipated and overwhelming demand, the Cape Cod Military Support Foundation requested additional food from GBFB.
By increasing the frequency and size of their food pickups, the Foundation increased their food distribution by 408 percent from December to January.
Other GBFB agencies felt the squeeze of the government shutdown as well.
• The Islamic Multi Service Organization in Roxbury joined with regional Islamic centers to deliver nearly 10,000 pounds of food to furloughed Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents working without pay at Logan Airport.
• The Holy Tabernacle Food Pantry in Dorchester opened its doors to furloughed federal workers, offering a special food distribution of over 14,000 pounds of food thanks to support from parishioners, nearby food pantries, and GBFB.
“On the ground the impact is staggering. Our food distribution numbers are up 11.4% over last year for the last three weeks just here in the pantry, and for financial assistance we distributed $8,200 last year for the first three weeks of January and this year the figure through Tuesday was $26,600 with 10 more requests pending.” ~ Brenda Swain, executive director of Falmouth Service Center.
In addition, while SNAP benefits are funded through February, the future of this federal program is uncertain at this time. We anticipate this will lead to increased demand in February and beyond. The Greater Boston Food Bank recognizes this has been a difficult time for many families across our Commonwealth and the ripple effects will be felt for months to come. We remain dedicated to our steadfast commitment to end hunger here, and we will continue to be here for those impacted.
With another possible government shutdown looming on Feb. 15, we call on the president and Congress to keep the government open and reaffirm our nation’s commitment to ending hunger.
We believe hunger is a non-partisan issue, and no one in our country should ever go hungry.