As the director of The Food Group, a regional nonprofit that partners with 170 food shelves and meal programs across Minnesota and Wisconsin, the new year usually offers me a prompt to look brightly at the year ahead. The darkest days are behind us and the lightest are yet to come. It is hard not to be optimistic! This year, that optimism is clouded by the gloom of the ongoing government shutdown.
As I write this, we have entered the 26th day of the shutdown with no end in sight. As many as 800,000 federal workers have not received a paycheck in weeks. Paychecks they rely on to support their families.
What our elected representatives do impacts the people who elected them, and they need to be held accountable. Americans working in our government — and many more who support their work — are facing a situation they never imagined. Just a few weeks ago they were enjoying the holidays with their families. Now they are wondering how they will pay their mortgage and put food on the table for their families.
For Minnesotans using SNAP, each day comes with more uncertainty on whether SNAP benefits will be distributed past February if the shutdown continues. All of this is leading to an increased need for food support in our community. More individuals struggling and more visits to local food shelves. Not the New Year we had imagined.
Our elected leaders need to hear from us. I urge everyone to write, email or call your Senator or Congressperson urging them to re-open the government. Until then, with your help and encouragement, we will continue to do our best to support the increased need for nutritious foods. I hold out hope by the time this letter would go to print the government has re-opened and my optimism has returned.
Lori Kratchmer is the executive director at The Food Group, a nonprofit that uses nutritious food to strengthen community. They focus on local food access, equity, and nutrition issues related to food and hunger in more than 32 counties in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Learn more at thefoodgroupmn.org.