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Uncertainty about SNAP Causing Food Banks Anxiety about Possible Widespread Hunger

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The partial federal government shutdown is sending unpaid workers across the country to food pantries as they struggle to pay essential household bills. 

In Kentucky, more than 600,000 residents get some of their food from the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The USDA issued February SNAP benefits earlier than usual. It’s unclear whether money will be  appropriated for SNAP in March if the shutdown continues.

Glenn Roberts is executive director of Tri-State Food Bank in Evansville, Indiana, which distributes food to soup kitchens and food pantries in parts of Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois. He said local food pantries are starting to see more people come in, but that could be just the tip of the iceberg.

“The bigger concern is if the shutdown continues, what will happen to SNAP. If the benefits are suspended, that could have a catastrophic effect on the food bank network across the country,” said Roberts.

He said food banks are awaiting word on the shutdown and the future of the SNAP program.

“There’s been no sign from Washington about what might happen in March. So the fear, and it’s a very justified fear, is that SNAP would be either cut or just suspended," said Roberts. "And that’s where it could get very very ugly, very very fast.”

Tri-State Food Bank is a member of the  Kentucky Association of Food Banks and distributes food in eight Kentucky counties -  Crittenden, Daviess, Henderson, Hopkins, Livingston, McLean, Union and Webster. 

In Indiana, Tri-State Food Bank distributes to nine counties, including Vanderburgh, Warrick, and Posey.  

Rhonda Miller joined WKU Public Radio in 2015. She has worked as Gulf Coast reporter for Mississippi Public Broadcasting, where she won Associated Press, Edward R. Murrow and Green Eyeshade awards for stories on dead sea turtles, health and legal issues arising from the 2010 BP oil spill and homeless veterans.
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