The government will shut down one minute after midnight Sunday, barring last-minute budget consensus from lawmakers. A shutdown, especially a protracted one, would throw into disarray a wide range of federal agencies and programs, including those that provide nutritional assistance to millions of people.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) payments are ensured through October, though a lengthy shutdown could put future grocery benefits for nearly 42 million people at risk.
But a shutdown would almost immediately put the brakes on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, commonly known as WIC. WIC served 6.3 million people each month last year, including an estimated 39% of all infants in the country, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.
FMI – The Food Industry Association said this week it is working with federal officials, as well as its state partners, to reduce the impact of any potential disruption to SNAP and WIC.
“FMI members have worked tirelessly over the years to create quality in-house nutrition programs that can be used by all shoppers, including those receiving food assistance,” an FMI spokesman said in a statement to WGB. “We encourage shoppers to consult with their grocers’ registered retail dietitians who are committed to assisting families impacted by any loss in benefits.”
The Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, joined more than 600 other hunger and nutrition organizations this week in sending a letter to Congress, pleading for the immediate passage of a continuing resolution to stave off a government shutdown.
“Our nation is still reeling from the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we cannot afford delays in the delivery of essential programs that ensure food security,” FRAC President Luis Guardia said in a statement. “It is unprecedented that WIC participants are caught in the political crosshairs. Forcing WIC to turn away nutritionally at-risk new mothers and young children will jeopardize their health and wellness.”
SNAP recipients have a significant impact on the grocery industry. In 2022, those receiving the federal nutrition aid accounted for 24% of total U.S. spending on consumer-packaged goods, according to data firm Numerator. And last year, SNAP benefits made up about 12% of all food and beverage sales, according to a report from Moody’s Investors Services.
“FMI will remain closely engaged with our federal government, state association and state agency partners to reduce the impact to our customers to the best of our abilities, even as we strongly encourage a resolution that prevents any disruptions,” the trade association said.