Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin preps extra food for pantries amid partial government shutdown

LITTLE CHUTE — Food banks across Wisconsin are bracing for an increase in the number of people seeking help as thousands of federal employees in the state are left without pay amid the partial government shutdown that started Dec. 22.

Patti Habeck, president of Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin, told The Post-Crescent that the organization is preparing extra food for pantries in anticipation of more federal employees struggling to pay for food. Feeding America, which distributes to 600 pantries in the region, is readying for the high demand while the federal shutdown coincides with an expected decline in food donations after the holiday season.

Wisconsin families that rely on benefits under the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, are also growing concerned about counting on the assistance.

President Donald Trump's administration announced Tuesday that the program will be funded through February should the shutdown centered on President Trump's request for $5.7 billion in border wall funding continue. But it's unclear what will happen to the funding if the shutdown lasts until March.

"That adds extra stress on families who are already stressed not knowing what's going to happen," said Habeck.

Food banks in Wisconsin wouldn't be able to make up for the loss of food stamp benefits, said David Lee, executive director of Feeding Wisconsin, which advocates on behalf of the state network of Feeding America food banks.

"We just can't bridge the kind of gap that we're talking about," Lee said.

He said food banks can only wait to see what happens.

"There is going to be a lot of pressure on the charitable food system in our state," he said.