Indiana Steps Up Efforts to Fight Food Insecurity During Shutdown
INDIANAPOLIS — With the federal government shutdown in its fourth week, state and federal leaders, along with hunger-fighting groups, are working to ensure struggling Hoosiers are able to put food on the table.
Under the direction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration will issue benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for the month of February on Tuesday. Feeding Indiana's Hungry executive director Emily Weikert Bryant said while the early distribution is very much appreciated, there still are serious concerns the shutdown will deepen hunger in the state.
"It's impacting real people, it's impacting families. It's impacting someone you know, more than likely,” Bryant said. “There are 600,000 Hoosiers who use the SNAP program; there are several thousand federal employees and their families who are being affected by this shutdown."
Distribution details for March SNAP benefits are unknown and will depend either on reserve funding or the shutdown ending. State officials are asking SNAP recipients to budget their benefits to ensure the amount received provides for their food needs through the entire month of February.
However, Bryant noted SNAP benefits typically only last about three weeks of the month, and many recipients already utilize local food banks and pantries to make up the difference. Still, she encouraged anyone facing food insecurity to learn about resources that are available.
"Call 211 and they can direct them to pantries near to them, to after-school programs, meal sites, things like that that can help,” she said. “It's a unique time. We've never really experienced this. We don't know when the end is coming."
Due to the growing need during the shutdown, Bryant said food banks and pantries are expected to be inundated over the next couple of months. And so they are asking for contributions, particularly monetary donations.
"It's a faster turnaround for us because, from the food-safety aspect, any food that's donated has to be inspected,” she said. “So the monetary enables us to turn it around a little faster as well as help with the storage and distribution of the food that we are distributing."
Bryant also encouraged elected leaders to end the shutdown and reduce the threat of hunger for thousands of Indiana families at risk of food insecurity.