Disaster relief is one of the core missions of Virginia’s food banks. While we work hard to meet the day-to-day nutritional needs of the communities we serve, we know that any given week could bring an event that disrupts thousands of lives and requires us to provide emergency hunger relief. In the past, we have responded to earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and blizzards, but this month, for the first time, we find ourselves responding to a disaster entirely of our government’s own making.

This past weekend, the partial federal government shutdown broke a record for the longest in our nation’s history. For each passing day agencies remain closed, the consequences grow more dire. This week, two food banks packed emergency food boxes for distribution to TSA workers who screen passengers at airports. Meanwhile, four additional food banks have started targeted food distributions for federal employees, diverting critical resources to meet the growing need across the Commonwealth.

The Capital Area Food Bank recently offered one such distribution in northern Virginia. They planned for as many as 250 federal employees, but found 100 people lined up an hour before the distribution started. They stretched the available food as far as it would go and ultimately served nearly 500. We know this is only the beginning.

Virginia’s food banks are fulfilling their missions by stepping in to fill the void that has been created by this government shutdown, and we will continue to do so as long as the need exists. But our resources and capacities are not unlimited. Until a resolution is reached, the government is reopened, and federal employees receive the pay they have earned, we will remain firmly fixed on a path toward a hunger crisis.

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