National Efforts To Feed Federal Employees Includes Utah Community Services

Jan 14, 2019

Prior to the recent government shutdown, US Military Service members filled satchels with food for hungry Americans. Now food service organizations are filling orders for federal workers.

Ogden is home to thousands of IRS and US Forest Service workers. It is also the location of Catholic Community Services of northern Utah which is helping feed furloughed employees and their family members. 

They are part of an effort by national hunger organizations to coordinate federal and charitable food programs.

"Great amounts of Americans are just one missed paycheck away from hunger,” said CEO of Hunger Free America, Joel Berg.

Most IRS and other federal works in Utah average a starting salary of less than $23,000 per year according to Berg. He said Utah furloughed workers are not making enough to survive a very long time without getting a paycheck.

Hunger Free America announced Monday that the organization has set up a toll-free telephone line and web portal to help anyone affected by the government shut down to find food.

"We have a dual message,” Berg said. “Not only can you call us if you need help, but you can also call us if you want to use your time to volunteer and we will hook you up with an anti-hunger organization in your area. We have already spoken to Utahns Against Hunger. They can certainly use volunteers. Anyone from Utah who wants to give help or get help, we can provide that service."

By calling 855-859-4647 or going to the "Fed Food" website ( Utah’s furloughed workers will be connected to organizations like Catholic Community Services in Ogden, which has agreed to help northern Utah workers access their food pantry twice a month during the shutdown.

"There are dozens of agencies in Utah," Berg said. "And we want to make sure that if you have kids in school they can get a free school meal. So, there is a wide variety of things we can do to help people with access no matter where they are."

Most of the federal nutrition programs will be funded through February, but in order to qualify for federal food assistance programs like SNAP or the Women Infant and Children program, Berg said the application process needs to begin now.

The USDA is making February SNAP payments early to meet demands. Berg says this requires each state to reprogram computers and make the adjustment. If the partial government shutdown continues into next month it is unclear if federal or even state food supplement programs will be in service.

"So how much is that going to cost taxpayers to do that," Berg wonders. "2,000 stores, so far, have been excluded from the SNAP program, to be able to accept SNAP benefits, because the USDA employees are on furlough that are supposed to do that work."

"We hope this ends soon for the good of the country," he adds.

The hotline and web portal will be active as long as the shutdown lasts.