I am sure those of you who are news junkies have read the same appalling statistics over and over today: 53% of all babies born in the U.S. rely on WIC to meet their full nutritional needs, and WIC is on the list of "nonessential" programs to be shut down this week. WIC also serves pregnant women, mothers, older children. Military families are looking at reduced services; they cannot apply for further financial assistance. As a group, military families receive $100 million in SNAP assistance. (And by the by, if your service member dies during the shutdown? Death waits for no man, but death benefits do.) Veterans' benefits, social security payments ... these will all be delayed, and it is possible that benefits will be reduced as the U.S. government nears the debt ceiling limit. And with senior poverty and food insecurity on the rise, a reduction or delay in social security benefits could push more of our oldest Americans in hunger.
My point: Some of our most vulnerable fellow Americans are disproportionately affected by this government shutdown. They will be wondering where their next meal is coming from. They'll be wondering how to feed their children. It is a terrible thing to not know when or how or what you'll eat again. It is equally terrible to stand by and let it happen.
If you can, please consider some of the following ways to help:
First, find your local food banks. Once you do, call them and ask them what they need. I'd also encourage reaching out to emergency shelters that serve women and children.
Second, consider helping replenish formula supplies at food banks or emergency shelters. You can do that without even leaving your desk. If you are a Costco member, you can get a 3-pack of Similac for $88 or a 3-pack of Kirkland brand for $55 and ship them to your nearest food bank for free. If you have Amazon Prime and a spare $131, you can buy a six-pack of Similac & ship it for free to your nearest food bank or shelter via the Subscribe and Save option.
Third, see if you can send grocery store gift cards to families in need. I didn't find any sort of national clearinghouse or directory, so this might be the kind of thing you do, quietly and without fuss, for the people in your life you worry about. I know my local chain, Nob Hill, lets you buy cards online and designate recipients (for shipping or in-person pickup). Alas and alack, I couldn't find the equivalent on Safeway's site but Food Lion's got a similar set-up (and even suggests giving cards to other people), so does Meijer and so do Publix and Kroger.
Fourth, help a military aid society. These are the safety nets that will be helping military families. Help them. Donate to the Air Force Aid Society, the Army Emergency Relief, Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society or ReserveAid.
I am posting this because it might be helpful. And because I have to wait a while to fix a systemic problem through voting, but I can try and mitigate some of the helplessness I feel now by working to blunt the impact of a decision I despise. I hope this helps some of you too.
ETA: I am opening comments on this one so anyone with other suggestions on how to help our most vulnerable fellow Americans can chime in. Let's share any and all useful suggestions.