Food bank officials express sequester fears during Roe visit

Hank Hayes • Mar 8, 2013 at 8:51 AM

KINGSPORT — Second Harvest Food Bank (SHFB) officials showed their new 112,000-square-foot facility to U.S. Rep. Phil Roe Friday amid organizational fears about the impact of automatic government spending cuts in the federal sequester.

“There are a lot of things we don’t know about,” SHFB Executive Director Rhonda Chafin said of the sequester’s effect. “I think it will be a ripple effect. We don’t know how many mothers and infants on WIC (the Women Infants and Children program) will be affected by this.”

SHFB national partner Feeding America warned the sequester will have “devastating consequences for low-income Americans living in food insecure households.”

Feeding America also said senior feeding programs like Meals On Wheels would be negatively affected.

“These are real cuts. I’ve been saying that for over a year,” Roe, R-Tenn., said of the sequester’s impact on defense and discretionary spending.

Roe said Congress is looking at legislation to minimize the cuts and extend funding until the start of a new federal budget year next fall.

Competing new budget plans from Democrats and Republicans will also be considered, Roe promised.

“There won’t be any government shutdown,” he predicted.

House Republicans have been taking President Barack Obama’s administration to task for the administration’s decision to cancel White House tours amid the sequester taking effect March 1.

The administration’s campaign unit, Organizing For Action (OFA), has been attempting to turn up the heat on Roe and House GOP lawmakers for letting the sequester happen.

“This isn’t a game — and Congress needs to hear it from the people they represent. They can put an end to these (sequester) cuts right now,” an OFA email said.

While SHFB deals with the sequester, the organization is attempting to raise $1.3 million to complete the move from its Gray facility to its new home off the Airport Parkway.

The new facility, a former Sam’s Club location, was bought from Walmart last July.

SHFB says the move will help close the hunger gap.

“The number of families and individuals seeking food assistance from the food bank has increased by 52 percent since 2007,” a SHFB release said. “We anticipate continued increase in need and expect that long-term effects of the recession will remain for several years.”

SHFB serves about 38,000 people per month.

For more about SHFB, go to www.netfoodbank.org.

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