As the US Government shutdown has reached day 35, many food-concerned Americans are questioning what it means for not only federal employees, but also for our food system as a whole. Government is integral to many aspects of America’s food system, from FDA inspections and food research funding to SNAP benefits, federally funded public school lunches, and a plethora of nutrition support programs for low income families and seniors. Here is a look into our food system under government shutdown:
- Millions of Americans rely on government assistance to uphold a balanced diet for themselves and their families. According to Business Insider, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which helps over 40 million families low income families each year, has received funding from the USDA to run at least through February. While this is good news for many recipients, some business who failed to renew their license with SNAP are no longer able to make sales for their SNAP customers.
- Many consumers are fearful about food borne illnesses, especially in the wake of the E. coli outbreaks in romaine lettuce in late 2018. With funding agreed to by Congress, the FDA has continued to inspect imported food, but not domestic. In a series of Tweets, Commissioner of the FDA Scott Gottleib assured citizens that they are continuing to inspect “high risk” facilities such as soft cheese or seafood processing plants. But Jenny Splitter from Forbes shed light on how lack of funding is affecting FDA food inspection. Splitter also points out that the number of inspections that the FDA under normal scheduling is far fewer than most Americans seem to believe.
- One group especially impacted by the government shutdown are the US federal employees. Without daily wages, many employees are struggling to meet ends meet. Time magazine highlighted the work that celebrity chef José Andrés is doing to not only provide free food for furloughed government employees, but bring politicians from both sides together. Chef Andrés started the #ChefsForFeds campaign to provide a 48-hour soup kitchen for furloughed employees. There are plans for more soup-kitchen sites to pop-up around the nation. Many soup kitchens around America are also feeling the weight of the shutdown as their lines fill with currently unpaid federal employees.