CHARLESTON, W.Va. — More than a month into the partial U.S. government shutdown, food help is becoming a greater need for some of the thousands of federal employees off the job completely in West Virginia and across the U.S. or still working but not getting paid.
In Cabell County, the Facing Hunger Food Bank is currently running or planning eight major food drives to keep shelves stocked to meet the needs of those federal workers.
“They’re people that never expected to have to ask for help in this way,” said Suzanne Brady, director of development and communications for the Facing Hunger Food Bank.
“A lot of the stories that we’re seeing is people coming in asking for food and saying, ‘We’ll pay you back. As soon as we get back to work, we’ll pay you back.’ Or they come in to volunteer to earn the food that they’re getting.”
More drives are pending.
Hours have been extended at the Facing Hunger Food Bank to 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays for distribution of emergency food boxes.
Those getting such boxes also receive information about resources close to their homes for longer term food support, if needed.
One of the Facing Hunger Food Bank’s partners is the Marshall University Department of Dietetics which has opened the doors of its campus food pantry to federal government employees in need of assistance.
“You come in, you say you’re hungry, we’ll give you food,” said Dr. Kelli Williams, chair of Marshall University’s Dietetics Program.
“We’ll also give you good, nutritious food. We really try, since we are the Department of Dietetics, to make sure that we are giving people things that are nutritious but that taste good and providing them with recipes and things like that.”
The pantry is located at the Tri-State MRI Building at 1802 6th Avenue, Huntington with hours from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Wednesdays, 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. on Fridays and from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on every third Saturday of the month.
The site opened for students last fall but has been expanded to include anyone in need in the time since then, Williams said.
In Nitro, the Nitro Mission Team’s Food Pantry is available for furloughed federal government workers. More information is available by contacting Bill Fortune at 304-881-2015 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Jefferson County, this coming Saturday brings the opening of a new pantry for government employees and contractors at the Shepherdstown Visitors Center. The hours there will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays at 108 S. Princess St. for the shutdown’s duration.
The cooperative effort from the Shepherdstown Visitors Center, the Shepherdstown Lions Club and the Shepherdstown Community Club is being called Shepherdstown Shares: A Community Response to the Shutdown.
The group is seeking item and monetary donations to keep the pantry supplied.
Hundreds of U.S. Coast Guard employees work in Jefferson County and are not being paid.
Along with increased demand from federal workers, Brady said they have been preparing at the Facing Hunger Food Bank for anticipated increased needs among recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits in mid-February.
Because of the shutdown, the state Department of Health and Human Resources released benefits early for next month.
In a normal month, Brady said SNAP benefits “barely” last three weeks.
As of Wednesday morning, Day No. 33 of the shutdown, no progress was being reported out of Washington, D.C. on ways to possibly end it.
Two proposals were scheduled to be taken up on the U.S. Senate floor on Thursday.
With continued uncertainty about the timing of the shutdown’s end, “We just don’t know what we’re looking at day after day,” Brady said.