Rhonda Chafin, executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee, said she’s “very concerned” about the shutdown potentially continuing longer than the end of next month. After that, those who receive aid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) might not receive their full benefits, as the program is one of several affected by the shutdown.
And if SNAP recipients don’t receive their regular benefits, food banks such as Second Harvest will be faced with meeting a greater need.
“That’s definitely lingering out there, and we’re concerned about it,” Chafin said. “We are concerned that if it lasts any longer than that, then there could be an interruption in benefits to individuals that are already food-insecure, and they depend on federal programs like SNAP to feed their families.”
Chafin said the organization is working to restock its warehouse not only to prepare for potential service increases due to the shutdown, but also to sustain its regular programs, such as the mobile produce pantry, mobile food pantry, backpack program and senior grocery program.
“We’re already seeing a decline in food donations,” Chafin said. “When we looked at our financial donations for individual giving and corporate giving in the area, we’re also down, and we’re really trying to identify is it because people are concerned that they won’t receive the tax benefits any longer? There’s a lot of uncertainty, but we do know that individual giving is down significantly over last year and the year prior to that as well.
“So it really doesn’t put us in the best position, if this (shutdown) continues, to be strong and ready to serve those additional needs,” she added.
The food bank is already appealing for donations to increase its inventory, which is significantly down. Chafin said 150 agencies depend on Second Harvest for food, and the food bank runs 70 mobile sites for food distribution to individuals.
Chafin said the best way to help is through monetary donations, but food donations are also accepted. Donations can be mailed to the food bank at 1020 Jericho Drive, Kingsport, TN 37663, or they can be made online at netfoodbank.org. Community members are also invited to volunteer or host food drives through their business, church, school or civic organization.
“This is a good time to support us, help us be prepared and get us in a good position for whatever may come our way in 2019, because what we do know is food insecurity has not dropped, and if we see additional need, potentially someone could go without food,” Chafin said. “We may not have enough to provide for them through our agencies or through our mobile programs, or they’re going to get a very small amount just to help them for a few days.”