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Hamilton County officials: Help restock Freestore Foodbank after government shutdown

February food drive
Posted at 12:52 PM, Jan 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-28 12:52:12-05

CINCINNATI — The impacts of the government shutdown are still being felt even after President Donald Trump signed a bill to temporarily reopen the federal government through Feb. 15.

Kurt Reiber, president and CEO of the Freestore Foodbank, says the organization saw about a 15 percent increase in demand from the 450 food pantries it serves as many federal employees went without paychecks for five weeks. Also due to the shutdown, the Freestore Foodbank expects a second surge in February and March. That’s because residents who receive benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP, received February benefits early.

Director of Hamilton County Job and Family Services, Moira Weir, is encouraging recipients to budget their dollars.

“The important message we’d like to get out to folks is that their cards were loaded early,” Weir said during a news conference Monday. “That does not mean that it’s an additional payment. They were loaded early for their February payment, so what’s important for folks to know is that they must have that last until the end of March.”

In anticipation of another surge, Hamilton County commissioners announced a county-wide February Food and Fund Drive to help restock the Freestore Foodbank.

“The concern here is that lag time,” said Commissioner Denise Driehaus. “So while we’re seeing the federal employees impacted now — food need now — the SNAP benefit piece will probably happen toward mid-to-late February when people anticipate or usually get a reload on that card and it doesn’t happen.”

Reiber says every $1 donated is equivalent to about three meals.

“If there is a silver lining in this government shutdown is the fact that families who wouldn’t otherwise need assistance of a food pantry are able to get support and see that support played out at Freestore Foodbank at one of our 450 pantries across the 20-county service area,” he said.

Cash and food donations can be made at the Freestore Foodbank at 112 East Liberty St. in Cincinnati, at local pantries and where designated Freestore Foodbank collection bins are located. Residents can also donate money online by clicking here.

Weir says counties and states are still waiting to hear how the federal government would handle the distribution of SNAP benefits if the government shuts down again in February. Assuming the government remains open, recipients will receive the regular reload on their cards for March.