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Shutdown: Stories from Our Partners on the Front Lines of Hunger

by Christina Wong

As the second week of the federal government shutdown comes to a close, we've been hearing from our partner program food banks and meal programs across the state about how the shutdown has been impacting their clients.

"We have had several families come in to see us already," reported Melody Hopfensperger, the Executive Director of Community Food Pantry in Belfair.  In one case, the pantry is serving furloughed government employees who are new to the emergency food system because the lack of pay has caused a crisis. "We had a gentleman come in, not knowing what was going to happen to his family.  They had no savings, they were paying their bills month to month, and now they had no pay check.  We told him that we could help feed his family."

In other cases, the shutdown has meant that families who had been getting by are now having to return to the food bank. On a service day earlier this week, the Marysville Community Food Bank asked their customers who were waiting in line if anyone had been affected by the shutdown. One woman stepped forward and said that this was her first time back at the food bank after a year and a half. She had to come back because her husband, a retired civil servant, stopped receiving his paycheck from the federal government last week.

We are especially concerned about our partners that serve small communities where a large number of residents work for federal programs, such as HopeSource in Cle Elum which serves upper Kittitas County and told us that their local newspapers reported that 25 National Forest Service employees were furloughed this week.

A partner in Yakima, the Yakima OIC Food Bank described how the number of clients coming to the food bank has "dramatically increased this week alone." Reasons given by the new clients coming to the food bank range from being off of work without pay or having had their hours cut to people who are coming to the program because they are afraid and want answers about what will happen as the shutdown continues.

If there is a silver lining to these stories of crisis, fear, and anxiety, there's also the hope that comes from seeing some furloughed workers make the most out of a terrible situation.

"We are seeing more people volunteer as a way to keep busy," said Melody of Community Food Pantry. "They are very talented individuals, and we are happy to have their new ideas that they bring with them." 

If you have a story about how the shutdown is impacting you, please share them with us and /or your elected officials. Stories keep the pressure on Congress to end the shutdown now. See our latest Advocacy Update about ways to share your story to help bring an end to to this crisis.

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