Food pantry operators in McLean County say if the partial federal government shutdown continues to drag into February, they will have many more mouths to feed.
Chief Operating Officer at Home Sweet Home Ministries in Bloomington Matt Burgess said since the government handed out Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits—formerly known as food stamps—early this month, many families could be running out of food sooner than usual.
“It doesn’t sound like much progress is being made on resolving the shutdown, and so all of us in the assistance field are kind of wondering how much is going to be going our way in terms of increased need,” Burgess said.
Burgess added Home Sweet Home could lose up to $6,000 in monthly federal reimbursements for its soup kitchen if the shutdown extends into March.
He said Home Sweet Home served 6,500 meals in its dining center in December and has the capacity to take as many as needed. He said the shelter has between 100 to 150 shoppers per month at its food pantry. He said the shelter could possibly take on an additional 50 to 100 per month in the short term.
Home Sweet Home is one of more than 50 food pantries in McLean County that receive food and other supplies from Midwest Food Bank in Normal. The agency serves more than 400 pantries in central and northern Illinois.
Procurement and Logistics Director Mike Hoffman said the agency is hearing concerns from service organizations about an increased demand for food if federal benefits run out.
“The people that are (running) pantries, those are the people that are on the front lines,” Hoffman said. “They are the ones that are trying to figure out what do we have to do to get more food in here and they are more preparing than anything else.
“People are concerned for the people that aren’t working and in this predicament of working and not getting paid.”
Hoffman said the food bank has started running additional distributions in recent weeks to help restock food pantry shelves and meet increased demand.
“There were more people that took advantage of it this time than in the past and I think that probably has something to do with (the shutdown),” Hoffman said.
He said the shutdown response hasn’t risen to the level of a natural disaster which the food bank frequently responds to, but if the SNAP program money runs dry, that would greatly accelerate the demand for food.
WGLT depends on financial support from users to bring you stories and interviews like this one. As someone who values experienced, knowledgeable, and award-winning journalists covering meaningful stories in Central Illinois, please consider making a contribution.