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Agencies brace for shutdown-induced food insecurity

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The month-long federal government shutdown has left a lot of families wondering how they're going to eat. It's a problem for families getting SNAP benefits, and it's a problem for families of federal workers who aren't getting paid.

Representatives from Foodlink, the United Way, 2-1-1/LIFE LINE, and Monroe County government held a press conference on the issue yesterday. They urged SNAP recipients to build budgets and stretch their benefits for as long as they can. And they urged anyone in need of food to call 211; the hotline, which is run by Goodwill of the Finger Lakes, helps connect people in need with various resources.

"To some suddenly without a paycheck,  it is the first time they are reaching out for assistance, and we will be there to help," said Jamie Saunders, president and CEO of the United Way of Rochester.

The US Department of Agriculture received some temporary funding during the shutdown and it ordered  states to issue February benefits early.  Monroe County Human Services Commissioner Corinda Crossdale cautioned recipients that these benefits are intended to last them through February and that they are not extra or bonus benefits. Recipients should budget and plan accordingly, she said. Any previous benefits they still have will not go away, so recipients do not need to spend them down immediately, Crossdale said.

Foodlink President and CEO Julia Tedesco said that 120,000 people in Monroe County receive SNAP benefits, and it's uncertain when the next disbursement will happen.  Foodlink will have additional emergency food distributions if the shutdown persists, Tedesco said. The organization posts a schedule of its mobile pantries and Curbside Markets — the latter accepts SNAP benefits — at foodlinkny.org.

If the shutdown continues, Foodlink and its partners could also be placed under stress as they work to help make sure people in the community can eat. The organization will need money, donations, and volunteers, she said.



"We are asking anyone that is in a position to help, please do so," Tedesco said.

Deb Turner, 2-1-1/LIFE LINE program director, encouraged people in need to reach out by calling 211, texting 898-211, or by visiting 211lifeline.org, which has service listings as well as a chat option.


 

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