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Local food banks could see demand spike if shutdown lingers

Thursday - 10/10/2013, 5:02am  ET

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Food to be sorted sits on a conveyor belt at the Capital Area Food Bank warehouse on Puerto Rico Avenue in D.C. Wednesday. Food bank officials are worried that the shutdown could linger into November and federal food assistance programs would run out of cash. (WTOP/Hank Silverberg)
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WASHINGTON -- The partial federal government shutdown and the possible showdown over the debt limit is not just about government workers and foreign debt. For some it could mean no food on the table.

The 23,000-square-foot warehouse for the Capital Area Food Bank is stocked well as the organization prepares for the greater demand during the upcoming holiday season. The food bank provides supplemental food to 500,000 people across D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia.

But President and CEO Nancy Roman says the need has been high since the start of the recession. And if the stalemate on Capitol Hill ends up cutting federal food assistance programs, that need could get difficult to manage.

Both the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps, and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program are funded through the end of October.

"We're not able to meet all the needs that the federal government can meet with nutrition programs," says Roman. "In fact, food banks sprung up in response to a need to do additional work to what the government can do."

Roman says they expect that some people now benefiting from government food programs will turn to local food banks for help if these federal programs are not funded beyond October.

The number of people seeking emergency food assistance in the Capital Region has increased 25 percent since 2006.

The Capital Area Food Bank distributes food through more than 500 agencies across the region who then distribute it to local residents.

Roman says they are hoping to fill their biggest need in the next few weeks: volunteers. She's hoping some furloughed federal workers will contribute their time. For information about volunteering at the Capital Area Food Bank, visit their website.

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