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Federal Government Shutdown Could Strain Food Banks

Philadelphia, Pa. April 8, 2011 — The potential federal government shutdown poses serious challenges for hunger relief organizations like SHARE and Philabundance, who are already strained trying to meet the mounting need with fewer resources.

The pending government shutdown could mean no paychecks for non-essential federal employees, and as time goes on an increased number of federally funded state employees will also be at risk of losing pay. Programs and benefits that are at risk of disruption if a long-term shutdown occurs are unemployment benefits, SNAP benefits, TEFAP and Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP/senior boxes).

There are more than 40,000 federal employees in the Delaware Valley. The loss of pay for federal and state employees impacted by a shutdown could mean they will be reaching out to organizations like Philabundance and SHARE, as they did when Pennsylvania state employees were not paid during the budget debate in the spring of 2009. During this time, Philabundance saw a 50% increase in calls to our helpline, 800-319-Food (3663), and an increase in requests for Emergency Food Boxes.

Depending on the length of the shutdown and Pennsylvania’s funding, unemployment benefits could be at risk.  Those who already receive SNAP benefits will not be affected as long as the government is up and running again by May, but the processing of new applications for the food assistance program could be halted. Seniors who receive food aid through the Commodity Supplemental Food Program could be at risk if the shutdown runs for an extended time. Philabundance distributes boxes to 9,179 seniors every month in the Delaware Valley and 34,588 seniors receive these boxes across Pennsylvania.

“With more and more families living paycheck to paycheck, a shutdown will prompt people to turn to Philabundance, SHARE and our network of food pantries to receive help getting food,” said Bill Clark, executive director and president of Philabundance. “This shutdown will be an additional strain on resources during an already challenging time, but we are ready to help those in need of food assistance during this difficult period.”

“The last two years have already seen a 40 percent increase in demand at food cupboards, even as donations have gone down,” said Steveanna Wynn, executive director of the SHARE Food Program. “The government shutdown makes this a perfect storm for Philadelphia’s food system and requires each of us to step up to help our neighbors.”

Philabundance is available to help people impacted during a potential government shut down. Their Programs can help provide emergency food assistance, as well as ongoing food assistance.

Call the Food Help Line at 800-319-Food (3663), and a bilingual Philabundance staff person will try to connect workers with food resources in their area.  For more information on Philabundance programs, please visit us at www.philabundance.org.

About Philabundance
Philabundance reduces hunger and food insecurity in the Delaware Valley by providing food access to people in need in partnership with organizations and individuals. Philabundance provides a full plate of services to close to 500 member agencies in 9 counties, who serve approximately 65,000 people per week at an aggregate cost of 50 cents per meal. There are more than 900,000 people in the Delaware Valley who are at risk for chronic hunger and malnutrition. In 2010, Philabundance distributed 21 million pounds of food. For more information about Philabundance, visit www.philabundance.org or call 215-339-0900.

About SHARE
“Do good, feel good, eat good,” is the SHARE Food Program’s motto because it promotes healthy living by providing affordable wholesome food to those willing to contribute through volunteerism.  As Philadelphia’s largest non-profit community food resource, SHARE:
o    Feeds 411,000 food insecure people a year through 550 Philadelphia county food pantries,
o    Welcomes 2,000 volunteers a month to its warehouse and farm,
o    Sells affordable food through 250 host sites within the 100 mile foodshed, and
o    Demonstrates urban agriculture and self sufficiency with its on-site farm.
For more information about SHARE, visit www.sharefoodprogram.org or call 215-223-2220.

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* Source for number of federal employees (total number, minus retirees):
www.few.org/docs/legislative/map/Pennsylvania.pdf

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