Monday, January 7, 2019

Government Shutdown Threatens National Emergency for Millions of Hungry Households

From the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC)
Contact: Emily Pickren 202-640-1118  

Statement attributable to James D. Weill, President,
WASHINGTON, January 7, 2019 — The Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) calls on the President and Congress to open the government and stop the threat to the federal programs that meet the most basic needs of struggling Americans. 

It is unconscionable to hold hostage programs like SNAP, WIC, and school meals that are essential to the nutrition, health, development, learning, and well-being of tens of millions of Americans. The Trump Administration has been less than forthcoming about how long these critical safety net benefits can and will be provided, but the specter of cut-offs starting in February is causing increasing fear and confusion. If SNAP, school meals, WIC, and other USDA nutrition programs reduce or terminate benefits in the next few weeks, decades of progress in the fight against hunger will unravel and millions of Americans will face desperate levels of hunger. That alone is absolutely unacceptable. 

But the consequences go beyond hunger. People's health will worsen, hospital and health care costs will rise, students' learning will suffer, food retailers will lose business, local economies will weaken, and huge numbers of jobs will be lost. And it is not just current beneficiaries who will be harmed. Adding unnecessary insult to irrational injury, locked-out and furloughed federal employees will need, but will be unable, to obtain nutrition program assistance. The inability to access benefits will also afflict many others in the private sector and state and local public sector who will lose jobs or face reduced hours of work as the appalling consequences of the shutdown cascade. Already furloughed federal employees and contractors who live paycheck to paycheck report problems meeting basic needs. The shutdown is interrupting SNAP redemptions at retailers needing to renew their SNAP licenses. 

These early negative consequences are just a hint of the hardships a shutdown of the federal nutrition programs for the lowest income Americans would produce. The President has said that charities, landlords, and creditors can help those affected by the shutdown. While they certainly can play a role, they cannot come close to filling the gaping holes that the shutdown is poised to create in these crucial programs. 

The true looming national emergency is America failing to meet the nutritional needs of 38 million SNAP beneficiaries, 22 million free and reduced-price school meal recipients, 7 million WIC recipients, and millions of other beneficiaries of USDA food programs when these federal programs start running out of money should the shutdown go on for the "months," much less "years," as the President has said he is willing to tolerate. 

The Food Research & Action Center is the leading national nonprofit organization working to eradicate poverty-related hunger and undernutrition in the United States. Visit to learn more. About Us FRAC is the leading national nonprofit organization working to eradicate poverty-related hunger and undernutrition in the United States. Visit our website to learn more. Contact Us Food Research & Action Center 1200 18th Street, NW Suite 400 Washington, District of Columbia 20036 (202) 986-2200