Gov’t shutdown means food pantries need help – UPDATED

Gov’t shutdown means food pantries need help – UPDATED October 2, 2013

I know, I know, Big Brother is too big, and it’s super fun to crow about what a vast improvement it is when government is shut down — no more panda cam, boo hoo hoo.

But for many people, the shutdown is no joke.  Since our fearless leaders in Washington are covering themselves with glory (and I include both parties.  I’m completely disgusted with every last one of them), there are plenty of Americans who face genuine hardship.

The WIC program will run out of federal funding in a few days, and various states may or may not have enough funding to continue the program.  WIC provides nutritious food to nursing and pregnant women and their children ages five and under.  I can clearly remember a time when our family — yes, while we were employed full time and living thriftily — absolutely depended on food from WIC.  Eggs and tuna, cereal and milk is what we lived on, and if that had run out, we would have gone hungry.

School lunch programs will also lose their federal funding soon.  Many kids depend on school lunch as their main meal of the day. (It doesn’t matter whether or not you think the government should be supplying lunch, or what you imagine you know about parents who have spent money on tattoos or whatever.  We’re just talking about kids who need to be fed.)

The Department of Veteran’s Affairs will run out of funding, so they won’t be able to pay the pensions and benefits for veterans. And any government employee who’s been furloughed may certainly be low on food.

Please consider bringing a bag of shelf-stable groceries to your local St. Vincent de Paul food pantry, or whatever local organization distributes food to people who need it.  

It doesn’t matter what you think about the proper role of government.  Our response to hunger and need is not a political statement.  We are just talking about people who will not have food in their bellies.  If you have $5, $10, $20 that won’t break your budget, please please shop for hungry people next time you go shopping, and encourage your friends to do the same.  Maybe explain to your kids that you’re going to skip dessert this weekend and use that money to buy food for people who would otherwise be skipping dinner.

If you don’t know where your local food pantry is, call your church — they will be able to direct you.  Many supermarkets have donation bins, or you can add a monetary donation to your grocery bill.

Again:  not a political statement.  Just a work of mercy.

UPDATE:  My sister Abby reminds me that many women and babies depend on WIC for formula, including expensive specialty formula for babies with various allergies.  Another reader reminds me that it couldn’t hurt to ask your local food pantry if they are more in need of food or money donations.


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  • kiwords

    Thank you. That hadn’t occurred to me. It’s sad that you have to be so careful in urging people to help feed hungry kids.

    • CS

      Yeah, like where she had to make sure she noted they were both working hard, because there’s a whole group of people whose stereotypes and viciousness would assume otherwise.

      • MightyMighty1

        My husband worked in a Title I district for four years where 95% of the students received free lunches. Most of his students brought a $2 Monster drink or $3 latte into class most days. Meanwhile, we were both working opposite shifts and couldn’t afford juice.

        Is it really vicious to only want to help people who are doing their best and *still* need help, versus people who feel entitled to free stuff? Sure, some people can be vicious about the poor. But I think your post is a bit vicious toward every person who cares about the poor AND wants to reduce entitlements and welfare fraud. Part of why we can’t even reduce fraud is because the left endlessly cries “racism” and “heartlessness” every time someone suggests that we look into the army of check cashers with “back pain”.

        @Simcha, good post. It’s a good opportunity to give generously and be apolitical for a moment.

        • CS

          Giving your kid $3 a day to fend for himself until you see him again is not welfare fraud. Kids spending their pocket money on garbage is not news either.
          And to answer your question: yes, I think it is super vicious to make judgments about entire families based on what junk food their kids brought to class in the morning…Or deciding that your choice to forgo juice makes you inherently more virtuous than letting your kid eat some junk when you know that’s all he’ll eat until you get home at 9 pm.

          • MightyMighty11

            Again, you’re judging. We’re vicious because while I was shopping in a ghetto (cheaper) grocery store between my two jobs I was annoyed to see people using food stamps to buy groceries and then cash to buy luxury items I could only dream of? If you really NEED food stamps, one would think that it would be to buy enough standard foods and you wouldn’t have an extra $50-100 for steak, beer, cigarettes, and lottery tickets. I really don’t see why it’s vicious to be annoyed that we had to work extra hours to pay our taxes to cover food bills that people could have covered if they weren’t hiding their cash income. We’re not judging entire families based on their snacks. My husband taught English and was privy to all sorts of details about students’ lives, including how many, many of the families were actively commiting welfare fraud. Meanwhile, we couldn’t contribute a cent toward retirement or college savings or pay more than just interest on student loans, were using Tracfones, had no cable, no restaurant meals, etc. So yeah, we were frugal, working hard and yes, more virtuous than people who were spending other people’s money they earned through fraud. But I guess it’s vicious to note that honesty is more virtuous than dishonesty and vicious to prefer to be taxed less so we could better selfishly provide for our selfish children.

            We have never had a problem with help that went to people who truly needed it, nor do we think it is personally our job to discern between them and the fraudsters. We just would like to see our govt take some steps to reduce fraud to free up either tax dollars for the workers or at least improve programs for the truly needy. So vicious. Ugh. I just hate myself.

          • CS

            I keep thinking about this exchange and wondering why you felt so compelled to write to try and disprove my sketch of people who would pass judgement on anyone using government assistance. (P.S. your efforts are failing.)
            Can you take a look at yourself from the outside and see the scene I see: You in the checkout line: casting your cold, appraising eye on the beer and smokes a woman buys after buying food with her SNAP card…Waves of anger and righteous back-patting variously washing over you…. Your next diatribe about the moral indignation of government help already being composed in your mind….
            Your husband’s “details” about people’s lives are also called gossip, FYI. I am a teacher, too. I know how that goes.
            In the end, you and I both want waste and fraud to not happen. But what I am getting here is that you are using its existence as the springboard for your self-righteous anger that other people make different decisions than you do. You resent your suffering? Yeah, well, everybody does when we are at our pettiest selves. I have been there, and will probably be there again tomorrow or the next day. I can’t figure out how to try and argue that it is just a philosophical or moral stance I am taking, though.

          • MightyMighty11

            I think this has stuck with you because I demonstrated the insane antics of the left, through you. You took someone working to the point of exhaustion, sacrificing, etc. and turned it into a nasty diatribe about said person righteously back-patting and having waves of anger. A husband talking about disturbing student essays, to his OWN WIFE, is now gossip (can we talk about who really wants to censor all free speech?). Someone who cares about keeping the conversation on the enormous amount of fraud that occurs through entitlement programs is having a petty self-pity party. There’s no way to win with people on the left like you because apparently we’re not allowed to respond to open fraud with anything other than, “Well, I’m a Christian and therefore can’t care at all about how my tax dollars are spent and it is “judging” to notice that what some people are doing is clearly unethical.” Spouses can’t discuss what happens at work. People can’t recognize that they are earning less and paying more in taxes every year while they know more and more people who are realizing that it’s easier to free up 50-80 hours a week, earn cash only, and rely on government subsidies for a boost. All of this is petty and mean. Good thing the Church doesn’t actually agree with you on any of that. See all that stuff about personal property being part of freedom and profits being a good incentive for raising the quality of life, etc.

            I’m out, no matter how nasty the next attack may be.

          • CS

            Well consider this for next time you want to make a political argument about food stamps: Use ideas and facts. *They* make for a good argument.

            Not your personal evaluations of what people buy on food stamps, including all assumptions therein about where they got the money they are spending.

            Not the extrapolations you draw from something your husband read in an essay.

            And definitely not your tale of how hard you worked to avoid taking food stamps and how angry you continue to be, to this day, that you had to go to the “ghetto” (!OMGGGGGG!!!!!!) to buy off-brand groceries.

            Also avoid hyperbole. I find it hard to believe, for example, that there are hordes of children– or even, more than one– writing about their parents’ welfare fraud in school essays. And I am speaking of real fraud, not “welfare fraud”, which is defined by you based on your personal decisions about what all people with food stamps ought to do with their free time and money in order to “deserve” them.

            People respect facts and solid ideas. I totally agree that true fraud prosecuted. And, hey, if there is a Church teaching that governments ought not to help people with food for their families, I will be happy to consider changing my opinion that food stamps are a fine thing to do with my taxes AND that people who admit to using them should not feel that they also have to hurriedly reassure other people that they are working hard, unlike “THOSE PEOPLE.” But as far as I know it is also not a Catholic idea to evaluate people’s worth, dignity and right to eat solely based on how much they contribute to the GDP.

  • Mariana Baca

    I’d encourage people to contact their local food pantries and ask if they prefer donations in goods or money. If they are not immediately low on things, they can sometimes get much more food in bulk than the average person can at the grocercy store. Each food pantry varies.

  • Colet C. Bostick

    I honestly wouldn’t have thought of this. Thank you!

  • Eileen

    Definitely call your local food pantry. You may find the greatest need is for toilet paper, sanitary napkins and tampons. That’s often the case – I don’t know how the gov shutdown will affect things.
    Also, I have found a perennial favorite canned good of food pantry clients is Dinty Moore beef stew – just something to keep in mind if you are donating actual food. 🙂 Too much salt for this hypertensive gal, but there’s no denying it’s tasty!

  • Christina Poynter

    Thanks for sharing! I wouldn’t have thought of this.

  • richard

    I get an annual reminder in the mail to donate to our local food pantries. It’s also very convenient to donate online.

  • gapaul

    Thank you Simcha. This needs to be understood by those who don’t see any major changes in their own lives. They may also want to be concerned about food safety (inspections have been all but eliminated) and people (including cancer patients who are children) who are being turned away from clinical trials conducted by the FDA. They may also not know about the interruption of Head Start –(government funded preschool programs for the needy.)

  • Beth

    Um, I’m on WIC…does this mean the checks I’ve already received won’t work in a few days, or does it just mean that new checks won’t be issued?! Not that you’d necessarily know, but I thought I might ask.

    • simchafisher

      ALL SPECULATION, CALL YOUR LOCAL OFFICE: I’m sure you can use the checks you already have. If they run out of federal funds before the shutdown is over, there may or may not be a delay in issuing new checks, depending on whether your state has funds set aside.

      • simchafisher

        I’m on WIC, too!

    • Anne Bender

      I used to be on WIC and now I work for WIC. Every state is different, so Simcha is right, call your office to check. You can spend any checks you have. My feeling is that this government shutdown won’t last long-I mean, come on! Think of all the money being wasted! Who’s going to stand for that? So don’t worry. Things will be back to normal, whatever that is, very soon, I think.

  • Another way to donate is to bring diapers, including larger sizes, to crisis pregnancy centers. Formula is welcome there as well. The need is HUGE.

  • richard

    It all comes down to food, clothing, shelter, and transportation.

  • smashleftwingscum

    “…our fearless leaders in Washington are covering themselves with glory (and I include both parties. I’m completely disgusted with every last one of them)…”

    You’re “completely digusted” with those who are trying to stop the anti-Catholic Obamacare through the budget process? Can we use a little bit of discrimination and distinction rather than lumping everyone together in an attempt to avoid political backlash from your readers?

    Should you be digusted with Ted Cruz even though he’s one of the very few senators with the courage to use the means at his disposal to oppose Obamacare? Or do you presume to judge his sincerity and motivations?
    These questions need to be asked since you made such a broad and sweeping indictment of all of them.

  • smashleftwingscum

    It’s a scandal that so many people and charities have been so dependent upon government, upon wealth coerced from everyone through taxation, for so long. That’s not real charity.

    The fact of the matter is that only local non-governmental private charities like Catholic churches have the ability to distinguish between those who truly need a hand-up in help and those who are irresponsible and looking to live off of others through govt. handouts. Government does not and cannot personally encounter, love, and evaluate each person and determine whether they need a hand-up or a loving fatherly kick in the pants.
    The lack of fatherhood/masculinity in government and the increasing feminization of American politics have hurt the soul of the nation as well as its finances.

    It’s a terrible shame many of my fellow Catholics just don’t get this. They do a grave disservice to many of the poor who need some tough love. A lot of material poverty comes from spiritual poverty, and no impersonal handout is going to mitigate that spiritual poverty.

    There used to be a time when women saw the government as a threat to their families and communities and voted conservatively. Now it seems like many women, even Catholic women, want the government to take over the provider role of the husband, Church, and local community.
    Perhaps big government “social justice” Catholics need to look in the mirror the next time they wonder who is to blame for the breakdown of marriage and family in America….

    • MightyMighty11

      I’m all for local charity for a lot of the reasons you describe.

      But…it sounds like you are using “feminization” as though it means “destruction” and “masculinity” like it means “awesomeness.” Try to remember that most of these entitlement programs were crafted by men, long before women even had much shot at public office.

      I’m all on board with blaming most of our social ills on the pill, sexual misconduct, abortion, etc. But you’re seriously going to blame mostly/just women for that stuff? Have they been impregnating themselves? How about we accept that men and women have both contributed mightily to the situation. I would agree that women have more power, in a cohort, to right wrongs by going on sex strike in order to demand more of slacker men. However, your post is the sort of thing that makes people think that there’s no such thing as a good traditional man, just a caveman dragging his wife around by her hair.

      • smashleftwingscum

        I’m using the term “feminization” to mean inserting the values of mothering, nurturing, caring etc. But government is nothing more than force and coercion. It cannot nurture. It ends up destroying what it tries to nurture.

        Read what De Tocquville said about the most dangerous form of tyranny facing America:

        One need not be a woman to feminize a government. My attack was not on women but on feminization of an institution that should not be feminized
        You really read way too much into my comment.