Gov't. Shutdown: "Salt in the Wound" for Needy in NC
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - The federal government shutdown could threaten disability and food-assistance benefits for some in North Carolina, according to groups charged with helping that population.
Although benefits will be distributed despite the shutdown, Kristin Lavergne, director of the Inter-Faith Council for Social Services in Chapel Hill, said people who are waiting to be approved for benefits or have outstanding issues may do without until the government is up and running.
"They are living on the edge," she said, "so if we add to that - that their food stamps don't get here on time, that the disability check is delayed - I think all those things could be factors."
The shutdown could indirectly affect her organization, Lavergne said, adding that there could be a reduction in commodity foods supplied through federal programs. The Inter-Faith Council also receives fresh food through the Farmer Foodshare, a North Carolina nonprofit that provides fresh produce to food pantries in the state.
According to new research by Farmer Foodshare, processed foods on pantry shelves are not the healthiest choices for the people who rely on them. A nutritional analysis of typical food-pantry offerings found that the average item contains 30 percent to 50 percent more sodium than the federal Food and Drug Administration's daily recommendation.
Margaret Gifford, executive director of Farmer Foodshare, said food assistance needs to reach beyond providing the bare minimum.
"It's really not enough," she said. "It's based on a scarcity mentality. It's based on this sense that people who have should give to people who have not, and people who have not should just be quiet and say 'thank you.' "
Science suggests diets that are high in sodium can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and other serious health concerns. Gifford said enabling pantries to offer more fresh foods is one way to improve the overall health of people in need.
The report is online at farmerfoodshare.org.