Humanitarian Crisis At Home

Impact from the government shutdown is making news daily – currently federal workers and contractors are being hit hard, and if it continues much longer, it’s going to be detrimental for low-income people, and those among our most vulnerable. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg if our nation’s nutrition assistance programs are not funded by the end of January.

I encourage you to read the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report by Dottie Rosenbaum on the facts around SNAP funding - it’s a quick read. What stood out to me are these points:

  • 19 million households in the US currently get SNAP and they shop at 250,000 grocery stores and other EBT retailers

  • If an appropriations bill doesn’t get signed soon, FNS will be $1.8 billion short to cover February benefits, and in March they will have no funding to cover the $4.8 billion in monthly benefits

Grave Economic Impact

We know from FNS research that SNAP benefits generate $1.79 in economic activity for every $1.00 spent in a community, which means a loss of $3.2 billion in economic activity at those stores and suppliers in February, and $8.6 billion in March. That’s going to hit the whole food supply chain hard, including the thousands of people that work at grocery stores or the people that make and distribute food. Some of them are already the working poor and SNAP recipients.

Food Bank Crisis

To make matters worse, another FNS program to be impacted is TEFAP - The Emergency Food Assistance Program. TEFAP provides government commodities like produce, beans and rice to food banks. The program is funded through March, and then runs out of money. So, just as people start to flood the food banks because they don’t have a paycheck or SNAP, the food banks will run out of some of the most nutritious foods they distribute. 

Congress and the President must fund the government first, and then work on improving immigration policy and border security, otherwise there will be an indisputable humanitarian crisis here at home.

I welcome your thoughts. 


Alicia Koné 
Former SNAP recipient and former Washington State SNAP director