Food bank braces for impact of government shutdown

VERONA, Va. (WHSV) — The government shutdown could have an impact on those in the Shenandoah Valley who rely on food assistance. The USDA said funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will last throughout February 28, 2019, but after that date, how people who are on food assistance programs get their food is up in the air.

If government funding is stopped for supplemental programs, the food bank will have to supply the need.

The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank (BRAFB) said they are preparing to fill the need they could ultimately face.

"We are a little more concerned than we have been in previous shutdowns," said Michael McKee, the CEO of BRAFB. "To cut SNAP benefits means that children and elderly and people with disabilities are going to be harmed. There's no way for them not to be harmed."

McKee said it will put a strain on the food bank. Usually this time of year, people get their tax refunds and do not reply on food pantries as much, but this year could be a different story.

"Our resources are really going to be taxed in ways that we have not really ever seen before at this time of year," said McKee.

He said the food bank serves 35,000 people in the Valley alone and two-thirds of those people use SNAP. This means if the funding is cut, the food bank will be their only source for nutrition.

"We really need to see government reopen and these benefits continue because the need is very real and the harm could be very great," said McKee.