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Government shutdown a looming problem for food stamps

Posted: 6:25 AM, Jan 10, 2019
Updated: 2019-01-10 07:25:59-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Three weeks in with no end in sight, the government shutdown threatens the nation's food stamp program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

Expired government funding can only carry the program through March. Brian Barks is President and CEO of Food Bank for the Heartland. Barks has seen cutbacks before, but not like the conditions today.

Food provided for assistance programs like emergency shelters and after-school programs could be stretched thin if food stamp money runs out.

"[It puts] pressure on those programs and on us in order to meet that need," Barks said.

Food Bank for the Heartland served nearly six-and-a-half million meals last year. The facility near 108th and L Streets ships boxes of food from the Nebraska panhandle to western Iowa.

"We've nearly doubled our distribution since I've been here and we're still not meeting the need," Barks said. "We have a plan to get there which takes time. The government shutdown could impact SNAP benefits."

Ten thousand applied for SNAP benefits through this Omaha-based food bank. Eighty percent of applicants were accepted.

Barks compares the potential loss of SNAP to losing a third of business.

"We don't want people to go into panic mode," Barks said. "It's a situation out of everyone's control and we have to do with what we can."