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North Texas Food Banks Prepare For Influx Of Families During Government Shutdown

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - North Texas food charities started receiving their first inquiries this week from unpaid federal employees.

The Tarrant Area Food Bank said it started receiving calls Monday from people inquiring about the process to receive assistance. The agency activated its emergency response team to prepare for food distribution. It also started reaching out to community partners, as was the North Texas Food Bank, to try to assess the demand.

Community Link, a food charity in Saginaw, saw it had interviewed its first federal worker on Tuesday.

Harvesting International in Mansfield said it had received enough interest to set up a distribution day for employees only, on Friday.

Harvesting International Food Bank
Harvesting International Food Bank (CBS 11)

"And it's hard to identify that need," said Amie Hebdige, an associate executive director with TAFB. "Hunger comes with a lot of pride, and so it's not like our clients walk in and say I'm on furlough I need food for the first time. So the way we will notice it is with our partner agencies who relay those stories."

Food banks and pantries said inventory levels were good coming off the holiday season. An extended period of need though could impact what was available.

In addition to demand from a new demographic, food banks were concerned about the effect early distribution of SNAP benefits could have.

The federal food assistance benefits from February are being sent early, to avoid being cut-off by the shutdown. However, food banks said recipients who don't budget the resource to last through the next month, could end up looking to food charities to assist them.

"I think we'll see it by the first of February," said Karen Fuller at Community Link. "It will impact not only government employees but it will impact our regular clients, because we only have a finite amount of food."

Valerie Hawthorne at the North Texas Food Bank said they were also keeping a close eye on expected shipments from the USDA. While orders placed before the shutdown are still on track to be delivered, she said there may be need if the closure continues and supplies start to dwindle.

Some charities said they had also started receiving calls from potential donors, interested in giving in case of increased need.

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