We certainly don’t need any reminders that it is a deeply difficult time for humanity and for our fragile earth. This time is fraught with tense borders, fractured politics, ideological bunkers, politicized echo chambers, egregious waste and pandemic loneliness. We’re feeling that acutely as we ring in the 33rd day of the longest partial government shutdown in US history, in a community where already thousands lack access to the basic things they need for life. We’re anxiously refreshing our news feeds for the latest updates, any word of a resolution… but in the meantime, what does the shutdown mean for our Nashville and Tennessee neighbors?
The partial government shutdown began December 22nd, 2018. This means all “nonessential” government workers have been asked not to report to work, and “essential” employees are continuing work without pay. There are several affected federal agencies with local offices such as the USDA, IRS, TSA and National Weather Service.
The effects of the shutdown will grow even more stark moving beyond February 1st, as the impact reaches nutrition programs, rental assistance and other safety net programs. As of now, federal nutrition programs are continuing to operate through February. Who is at risk if the shutdown continues into March? Nearly 1 in 6 of our Tennessee neighbors receive benefits from SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). Among them, 40% are children, a third are seniors or adults with disabilities, and 144,000 are working households (that’s more than 3 times the same number 15 years ago). The federally funded National School Lunch Program also could be at risk if the shutdown continues. The initiative currently provides meals for more than 30 million at-need youth nationally.
Here at TNFP, we often emphasize that we are not in the business of emergency food. But what about when emergencies arise? As we believe we are all called to do, we are asking ourselves… “What do we have to offer?”
This past week, we have been working with TSA, which has one of the largest federal work forces locally also among the lowest paid, to pull together a plan of support for their roughly 200 furloughed employees here in Nashville with made-from-scratch meals to eat during their work shifts, as well as some nutritious meals to take home for their families. Beginning today, we have added an additional 600+ meals per week to our menu planning and next week we will begin deliveries to the airport at least once per day. Additional volunteer teams as well as local restaurants, hotels and bakeries have pitched in making this a true community effort. The Omni Hotel has offered boxed lunches as well as canned goods that we can incorporate into hot meals. The Thompson Hotel and Loews Hotel have offered food from their kitchens, and Dozen Bakery and Charpier’s Bakery will be providing fresh breads. We’ve added additional meal prep times throughout the week to support these extra meals. You can sign up to volunteer for meal prep in our kitchens here.
It has been made clear by the folks at TSA locally that while relief support is deeply appreciated, the absolute best case scenario would be that the shut-down comes to an end as soon as possible. If you haven’t already--and if it is possible for you to do so--we encourage you to call, email, or tweet your members of Congress to let them know how the partial shutdown is affecting our local community.
Talking points from our friends at Tennessee Justice Center:
As long as the government remains partially shutdown, Tennesseans are at increased risk of hunger, and many children, seniors, vets, and families are in limbo.
Over 900,000 Tennesseans are at risk of hunger, including 467,000 children.
One third of TN SNAP recipients are seniors or adults with disabilities.
Food retailers will lose business. In TN, food retailers earn over $110 million in revenue from SNAP every month.
Call Senator Lamar Alexander – (615) 736-5129
Call Senator Marsha Blackburn – (202) 224-3344
For more details on what’s happening with SNAP, see TDHS’s FAQ or call Legal Aid Society of Middle TN at 1-800-238-1443.