Jennifer Hatcher, Food Marketing Institute (FMI) senior vice president of government and public affairs, issued the following statement in order to clarify hunger program funding during the government shutdown:
“Misinformation continues to circulate regarding the October 1 government closure’s impact on federally-funded hunger programs, which has in turn created customer concern and thus operational challenges for the food retail industry.
“While we certainly want the shutdown to end quickly, funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) extends through October, so SNAP customer benefits will be available. Food retailers always experience heavy volume at the first of the month when benefits are loaded onto EBT cards, so our message to SNAP customers is that they can utilize their benefits throughout the month, and there is no need to redeem all of their benefits now.
“In contrast to SNAP, which functions as a mandatory program, the Women Infants and Children (WIC) program, which supports nutritionally at-risk moms and children, relies on annual federal appropriations. FMI and our members and state associations have been in contact with each of the state WIC agencies. Many states still have leftover FY2013 funds available for WIC benefits or have repurposed funds that were intended for other areas or for contingencies. USDA sent additional funds yesterday to those states that were facing immediate WIC funding challenges. At this time, every state is accepting WIC vouchers in order to keep feeding those vulnerable moms and children, and again, there is no need for moms to rush to a store to try to redeem all of their allotments on their WIC checks.
“We will continue to stay in touch with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, our state associations, the state agencies and our members throughout this crisis to try to identify and resolve any needs that arise.”