As government shutdown continues, local food banks bracing for big hit

BOSTON — The consequences of the government shutdown are starting to add up, as the shutdown is already the longest in history.

And for food assistance programs, the impact could be dire if a deal isn't reached soon.

The state's four major food banks held a conference call on Monday to discuss what to do if the shutdown continues past next month.

After the conference call, they issued a warning: tough times may be ahead.

"We could be experiencing less food coming through our doors," said Catherine Drennan, Spokesperson for the Greater Boston Food Bank. "And the additional concern is an increase in demand."

The Greater Boston Food Bank, which isn't feeling an impact from the government shutdown yet, funnels more than 60 million pounds of food each year to hungry people in Massachusetts.

This particular food bank feeds 140,000 people a month all year long. And Drennan believes it truly is only a matter of time until they take a hit.

"A couple of pantries just reported more concern and fear among clients not knowing if they're going to get their food stamps in a month or two," she said.

That concern and fear comes from direct effects of the shutdown, one of them being less government surplus food.

Another cause for concern is a potentially drastic cut in the food assistance program known as SNAP if the shutdown lingers into March.

Through February, the government is funding SNAP nationwide at $5 billion, but the food banks worry that a persistent shutdown could drop the funding to $3 billion in March.

Adding to this potential mess, government workers who live paycheck to paycheck might suddenly find themselves with no check and no savings left.

"These federal workers would normally never come to a food pantry," Drennan said. "But in this case... they may."

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