Thousands of Arizonans on food stamps are feeling the effects as the government shutdown enters the four-week mark.
More than 300,000 families will start getting their February food stamps throughout the next few days, because there’s a good chance they won’t get them if the government remains shut down.
United Food Bank in Mesa is preparing for the worst.
“Right now, federal workers are not sure if they’re on furlough or are they working, so there’s some uncertainty around their paychecks,” president and CEO Dave Richins said. “A lot of them aren’t getting paid.”
But with the government shutdown still in effect, Richins says that creates a challenging situation for a lot of people.
“How do you make ends meet?” he said. “How do you put food on the table when you don’t have an income?”
That’s the big issue in play. So, the United Food Bank has been proactive in making sure federal workers have resources they can go to including their ‘Help Yourself’ resource the food bank holds every Friday.
“We have a discounted meat bag and produce bag that people can buy for $20,” he said. “They can use their SNAP benefits if they have SNAP benefits, and they also get a number of free items when they go through the line there.”
Richins says most people can walk away with a grocery cart full of food for about $20.
Right now, the Department of Economic Security is encouraging SNAP recipients to budget their benefits to make sure it's enough to get them through February.
“March benefits are uncertain, so people that get SNAP are going to need to do a little bit of planning,” Richins said.
At the same time, the food bank is anticipating an increase in need in mid-February.
“So, we’re starting to do our purchasing and planning to get our agencies a little bit of extra food in case those SNAP benefits don’t get renewed,” he said.
He says if the shutdown continues, it's definitely going to have an impact on the food bank and especially its bottom line, which is why it’s more important than ever to donate non-perishable food items.
You can also volunteer to help sort food, and if you give a monetary donation - you can be sure it will go to help keep the food bank’s trucks fueled and pantries full.
The United Food Bank moves about 21 million pounds of food each year. They anticipate more this year due to the government shutdown, along with the ongoing trade mitigation with the big trade war and bonus items the USDA is supplying. That’s also uncertain after late February until further notice.