The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank announced Friday that it will begin Federal Shutdown Food Assistance services effective next Tuesday, Jan.15.

Employees and their families that are missing paychecks due to the federal shutdown and are in need of food will be eligible.

“The federal shutdown is becoming a crisis for many employees and their families," said Joe Arthur, executive director of the Food Bank. "We are mobilizing to make sure nobody impacted goes hungry due to this shutdown."

Starting Friday, paychecks will be missed by thousands of central Pennsylvanians, Arthur said. "Our 27-county service territory includes almost 25,000 federal workers, a portion of whom will not receive paychecks during the shutdown. Also, there is potential for a ‘downstream funding effect’ and we are concerned that some Pennsylvania state and local government employees and private contractors may also be at risk if the shutdown lengthens. We hope that some of the impacted families will qualify for SNAP benefits or unemployment compensation, but for those who will not, we need to be there for them.”

The Food Bank will also continue its normal operations serving with more than 1,000 partner agencies and programs, but will add federal shutdown services on January 15 at the following locations: The CPFB Harrisburg hub, 3908 Corey Road, Harrisburg, PA 17109: Tues.-Thurs., 4-6:30 p.m. And the Williamsport hub, 3301 Wahoo Drive, Williamsport, PA 17701: Tues.-Thurs., 4-6:30 p.m.

The Food Bank will also work with high-capacity partner agencies to add additional service sites in closer proximity to impacted employee workplaces as we continue mobilizing.

A nutritious array of food will be provided to each recipient household, including fresh milk, eggs, fruits, vegetables, frozen meats, and nutritious shelf stable food.

“We are blessed that we have significant additional stocks of food on hand at our two hubs due to recent shipments of highly-nutritious USDA commodities," Arthur said. "These shipments resulted from recent Trade Mitigation activities by the USDA, and we are thankful for their efforts and those of our Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. With these good foods in stock, and our privately-resourced inventory, we expect to readily meet demand during the shutdown. If conditions change, we will reach out to our generous commercial food donors and other donors and partners.”

Instructions for accessing federal shutdown food assistance are located on the Food Bank’s website at www.centralpafoodbank.org and through a recorded message on the Food Bank’s Federal Shutdown food assistance phone line at 717-547-6336.

The Food Bank also offers a food stamps (SNAP) helpline at 877-999-5964.

 

SNAP funded through February

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees SNAP at the federal level, is one of the agencies unfunded during the partial government shutdown.

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue announced Tuesday that SNAP would be funded through February, thanks to the funding bill that expired on Dec. 22, which included a provision allowing federal agencies to make obligated payments to support certain programs for 30 days after its expiration date.

In September 2018, the last month for which data is available, $4.7 billion in SNAP benefits were disbursed throughout every state. If the shutdown continues through March, there will be no remaining funding for SNAP, endangering food security for millions of Americans.

"Another challenge is supplying all the pantries out there that aren't partner agencies with the Central Pa. Food Bank," said Joanne Troutman, president and CEO, Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way."These local pantries exist to serve families living 130 percent of the poverty level. What about families with income slightly higher than that who are without a paycheck? There are a number of people in our community who rely on federal jobs, and they are missing out. We have food pantries here that don't rely on federal money at all, and so the demand is going to be greater, so we'll likely have to rely on more donations than normal. Because if there are families going to a pantry who don't normally go, there will be a higher demand."

 

Farmers affected by shutdown

The partial government shutdown is affecting U.S. Agriculture and Pennsylvania farmers, said Mark O'Neill, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.

"First off," he said, "it’s important to remind consumers that food safety and inspection programs remain in effect, despite the partial government shutdown."

But with the closing of Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices, O'Neill said, farmers affected by retaliatory tariffs will now have to wait until after the shutdown is over to receive any assistance under the Market Facilitation Program.

"The closing of USDA’s FSA offices halted the processing of new applications for aid that is designed to provide a measure of relief for farmers from ongoing trade issues. Farmers, who completed all of their paperwork and had the information processed by FSA prior to the partial government shutdown, should still receive some relief."

USDA offices that offer loans to farmers across the country are closed due to the shutdown, O'Neill explained. "Now is the time of year that many farmers apply for loans to provide them resources for the new planting season, which typically begins in April in Pennsylvania."

With FSA offices closed, the process of implementing the recently signed Farm Bill is on hold. Sales of dairy protection products and commodity policies are currently suspended. Risk Management Agency (RMA) offices are also closed, so farmers will have to wait to purchase crop insurance policies.

"Most farmers signup for risk management policies in January and February, and prior to the spring planting season," O'Neill said.

In addition, some farmers rely on economic data from the federal government, such as supply and demand reports.

"Farmers may use the information to determine what plants they’ll grow in the upcoming season," O'Neill said, "or when and at what price to sell products in storage, such as corn and soybeans, or when marketing beef and pork products.

"If the partial government shutdown continues to drag on, lack of access to agricultural data will become a much bigger concern."

Northumberland County Reporter