Kids are busy – trying to juggle school with family responsibilities along with after-school activities like sports, clubs or playing an instrument. And at the end of the day, it seems like there’s always the much-dreaded homework. We know it takes time, effort and focus to do it right.
It’s hard to focus on any of these things if you’re hungry. As the federal shutdown continues in its third week, the impacts of the shutdown are starting to threaten the food security of hundreds of thousands of Michigan kids.
In December 2017, over 1 in 4 young kids in Michigan depended on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, as part of their food security. Around twice as many benefit from programs like Women, Infants, and Children and the Free and Reduced Price Lunch Program. These programs help ensure that kids living in families with low incomes can eat nutritious food both at home and school, from birth through their teenage years.
With the budgets of these programs still in limbo, children that benefit are in jeopardy. A lapse of federal funding could mean hundreds of thousands of Michigan kids without support. The shutdown is already having effects on food assistance across the state.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is working hard to get families the support they need in case funds run out, including releasing SNAP benefits for February early. The Department is advising families that receive SNAP to budget carefully over the next two months, as it is unclear when funds for March would become available. This kind of crisis-response is necessary, but likely to cause confusion among families who use SNAP, who will be receiving benefits earlier than usual and expected to make them last through next month or potentially longer.
Kids with parents who work in the government areas affected by the shutdown, or are employed as contractors, are also faced with insecurity. With no end in sight, many workers are looking for temporary work, applying for assistance, or taking on debt to make ends meet. Food banks have been stepping up to try and meet the excess need, but reserves will only last so long.
The League has called for the shutdown to end immediately and for the federal government to stop playing politics with people’s lives. The beginning of a new year is supposed to be a time of opportunity and hope—not fear and insecurity. Kids and their parents should not have to worry about going hungry, especially when this crisis is completely avoidable.–