Government Shutdown

Director Susan Martin works with volunteers restocking shelves after distributing food for the holidays at Project Blessing in Reedsport on Dec. 21, 1018. Oregon Food Banks is encouraging federal employees impacted by the ongoing government shutdown to use the non-profit's services.

COOS COUNTY — The Oregon Food Bank released a statement Wednesday encouraging furloughed employees to seek its services during the government’s partial shutdown.

“We want to make sure that people know that we are here to help,” Oregon Food Bank CEO Susannah Morgan said. “People do not need to go hungry or worry about feeding their families.”

Volunteers work a busy food line during the annual Christmas Food Basket Program at the Southwest Oregon Regional Airport hangar in North Bend…

The partial shutdown, which has now reached into its fourth week, has impacted about 800,000 federal employees nationwide and about 9,600 employees in Oregon who did not receive their paychecks this month.

According to Morgan, the food bank partners with thousands of food assistance sites throughout Oregon and Clark County, Washington to distribute food to individuals and families in need. At any given time, its Portland warehouse carries about four to six million pounds of food, she said.  

The food it collects comes from a variety of sources including Oregon farmers, wholesalers, grocery stores, manufactures as well as government agencies. One of which is the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which purchases food from American growers and manufacturers and passes it along to numerous food banks.

“Food is still coming,” Morgan said. “While no new contracts are being made this month, the government has contracts that were made months in advance with the agricultural sector and are still being honored.”

Today, the Oregon Food Bank works with 21 regional food banks around the state including Oregon Coast Community Action’s (ORCCA)  South Coast Food Share program, which serves both Coos and Curry counties.

In addition to reaching out to furloughed employees, Morgan said its food bank is also working toward assisting Native American communities across Oregon who may be affected by the shutdown.

The food bank is currently gathering information from its partner agencies and tribal communities to see if its services are needed and if it should include extra food distribution sites, said Morgan.

Earlier this week, USDA also announced its plans to provide benefits for those enrolled in its Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for the month of February.

According to a USDA press release, the agency is working under an appropriations bill to provide SNAP benefits to the millions of Americans who rely on it each month. States have been given a deadline and will have till Jan. 20 to request the early issuance.

“We hope there is a resolution to the shutdown prior to March or at least a resolution to the funding,” DHS SNAP/Refugee Program Manager Dawn Meyers said. “But, at this time we’re really just focusing on ensuring households get those benefits for the month of February.”

Last November, Coos County received over $1 million in federal funding for SNAP, which benefits were distributed out to over 15,000 residents.  

Additional USDA supplementary nutrition and safety programs will also be delivered for the month of February its Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program and the Emergency Food Assistance Program to name a few.  

For those interested in locating a food assistance site, the Oregon Food Bank has prompted people to visit its website at www.oregonfoodbank.org/findfood.

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