With the current government shutdown, certain food benefits and nutrition programs are impacted by reduced or terminated new federal funding. SNAP recipients are receiving full February benefits on or before January 20 automatically through electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is no longer receiving new federal funds during the current government shutdown. This program is now relying on available state or local funds. While families are currently able to receive benefits, a prolonged shutdown could cause a reduction or even termination of benefits in the future. The Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) has provided state agencies with additional appropriated funding to continue operating USDA Child Nutrition Programs through March 2019.
In response, schools, food banks, nonprofits and community leaders are working together to bridge the gap in resources to help kids continue to receive healthy breakfast and lunch meals during this environment of uncertainty. Many school districts through newsletters, principal briefings and websites are encouraging families impacted financially by the government shutdown to consider submitting a free and reduced application. This not only helps ensure students receive nutritious meals, but it also helps the schools ultimately obtain financial reimbursement for supporting student’s needs.
School and community leaders are also expanding backpack programs or assisting with local food pantries. For example, one school district served by Sodexo USA has partnered together with a local foodbank to create a Mobile Market food pantry. This pantry provides fresh, nutritious food to families once a month and recently invited furloughed federal workers.
During and after unexpected events like a government shutdown, programs may need time to restore normal patterns of operation and/or cash flow. To help districts work through these types of unanticipated closures such as shutdowns, natural disasters, snow storms or teacher strikes, sites may be able to operate either Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) At-Risk, Seamless Summer Option (SSO) or Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).
- Schools sponsoring CACFP At-Risk afterschool meals can operate on any non-school day during the school year – this includes weekends, holidays, breaks (such as February vacation), and unanticipated closures (such as snow days). Sites serving on these days through CACFP can serve any one meal (breakfast, lunch, or supper) and/or a snack.
- Sponsors may serve meals through SFSP or SSO instead of CACFP At-Risk afterschool during unanticipated closures like snow days. The state agency may waive the application for sponsors that operated in the current or two prior calendar years, but regardless, schools should check with their state agency in advance. Through SFSP or SSO, sites may serve a breakfast and lunch or any meal and a snack.
- Share our Strength, a nonprofit organization reducing hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world explains how to operate Child Nutrition Programs during these times of need.
- Families can apply for free or reduced-price school meals at any point during the school year. This practice applies to households with furloughed employees. To apply, families can contact their school nutrition department. School districts also have the flexibility to date the eligibility for free or reduced-price school meals as of the date of the application to provide immediate support to families. State child nutrition agencies can provide guidance.
- Under all circumstances, school districts are advised to contact their state agency to confirm all state specific regulations are met in line with these programs. Local Foodservice Directors serving schools can also discuss opportunities to further assist students.