Feeding Families Shouldn’t Be Political: An Open Letter from Feeding South Florida’s President & CEO

We, as a community, and country, just experienced an unprecedented time and uncharted territory for Feeding America’s network of food banks. Feeding South Florida is relieved to hear that a temporary deal has re-opened the federal government.

The significant lingering impact of the shutdown will continue to stretch Feeding South Florida’s resources.

While federal workers are expected to be paid, they likely won’t be until February 1st, except the Coast Guard who was paid already. Additionally, federal contract employees will unlikely receive backpay. This is a significant financial impact, as almost 10% of their annual income was lost during the shutdown. We’re hearing and seeing that both federal workers and contractors will continue to need assistance from our network as they recover from the financial impact of the shutdown. Moreover, federal employees took out loans, maxed their credit cards and emptied savings accounts that will take time to repay.

We are also deeply concerned about participants in federal nutrition programs, specifically the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). There are early indications from the Hill that USDA will have enough funding to provide March SNAP benefits. However, the early issuance of February SNAP benefits on or before January 20 has created a “SNAP gap” that is likely to cause significant financial strain for SNAP participants. This is because they will experience, at a minimum, nearly 40 days between the issuance of February and March SNAP benefits. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released an analysis of this challenge, which Feeding America will evaluate in the coming days.

The sad truth is, what federal employees experienced for 35 days is the reality of life for 706,130 food insecure individuals throughout Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe Counties.

It’s a choice between food or housing, it’s a choice between medical care or utilities, it’s a choice between bus fare or school supplies. Maxed credit cards, additional loans, and plundered savings accounts are some of the costs for a month of work without pay. The families we serve regularly also experience the same challenges.

Unlike a natural disaster where only specific geographic areas are impacted, and the Feeding America network of food banks can rely on each other for food and help, this most recent shutdown has affected every state and U.S territory.

That means each community must take care of itself.

During the shutdown, it became abundantly clear that our community is strong and that Feeding South Florida can respond rapidly to any disaster – natural or otherwise. To ensure we’re always prepared, we must now replenish our un-budgeted deficit to ensure we continue helping the 706,130 food insecure individuals throughout South Florida.

Corporations and organizations were slower in response than a natural disaster for fear that providing support would veer into taking a political stance. But as a food bank, we can assure folks of one thing.

Food should never be about politics, or about red or blue, or about who’s right or who’s wrong. This is about serving our fellow neighbors and ensuring people have a meal, transportation, a roof over their heads, childcare, medicine, and the basics to continue daily life. Whether or not we agree on what happens in Washington, we should all agree that feeding families is the right thing to do.

To ensure 706,130 South Floridians have access to nutritious food, and that we replenish the critical resources expended during the shutdown, we’re asking for the community’s support in the following ways:

  • Donate Funds: For every $1 donated to us, we can provide 6 meals. Donations give us the most flexibility to dispatch our fleet to pick-up additional food, distribute it and add programs. With our purchasing power, should we need to buy food, we can access trailer loads at below wholesale cost. Donate now!
  • Donate Supplies: What we’re in need of most are diapers, formula, baby wipes and gas cards. We can pick-up collections weighing more than 500 lbs. or you can drop them off at either Feeding Palm Beach County in Boynton Beach or our main warehouse in Pembroke Park. Register your supply drive here.
  • Volunteer: With ten volunteer shifts per week at both warehouse locations, we’re in need of volunteers to help sort food before we distribute it. We welcome individuals age 12+ and groups as large as 100 volunteers! Register here.

During the shutdown, Feeding South Florida responded in the following ways:

  • Hosted 6-7 distributions per week across four counties, including this week, for TSA, Coast Guard and other federal employees at airports, prisons, and locations near ports.
  • Expanded our food assistance offered at our Client Services Centers’ Choice Pantries; we saw a 350% increased need for our services.

As we monitor the current situation over the next three weeks, we will provide updates on our website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Please join us as we continue to provide for our neighbors. Together, we #ShutdownHunger. Together, we are #FeedingSouthFlorida!

Thank you,

Paco Vélez
President & CEO
Feeding South Florida

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