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Local food banks could have to waitlist families on WIC as program faces $1B shortfall

With government shutdown looming and WIC in jeopardy, food bank preps to make up the difference
With government shutdown looming and WIC in jeopardy, food bank preps to make up the difference 03:30

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - We are just weeks away from a potential government shutdown. March deadlines are quickly approaching as Congress tries to agree on a national budget.

Federal benefits like WIC, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, could be in jeopardy.

Local food banks that receive federal funding would have to make up the difference. At the same time, the price of groceries they buy is increasing.

Kate Wickersham, director of development at LCH Health and Community Services, joined CBS News Philadelphia inside the Chester County Food Bank.

"For many of our families, they have to decide between purchasing food and getting their health care," Wickersham said.  

LCH has been providing health care services for more than 50 years to the most vulnerable families in Chester County.

"LCH serves between 8,000 and 9,000 folks every single year. 41% of our patients are at poverty levels or below," Wickersham said.

Fresh produce available at the Chester County Food Bank. CBS News Philadelphia

As Congress faces another government shutdown, lawmakers are confronted with two deadlines — March 1 for funding the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs and March 8 for Department of Health and Human Services funding.

How much progress they make now will determine federal budgets that impact programs like WIC.

Nicholas Imbesi, the Chester County Food Bank's senior manager of government relations, explained how these deadlines will could impact the food bank's operations going forward.

"Unfortunately what we are seeing now is that by September 2024, we are going to be facing a $1 billion shortfall. And because of that shortfall, up to 51,000 eligible Pennsylvanians — children and mothers — will be waitlisted because that the food bank will have to make up that gap," Imbesi said.

The food bank teaches families how to stretch their WIC dollars by providing food access points through prenatal food boxes for expecting mothers, the farmer's market nutrition program and Eat Fresh Cooking Classes that utilize fresh produce to create healthy meals.

Meanwhile, LCH is counting the days as a government shutdown looms. For this local organization, March 8 also means community health centers' funding is at risk.

"For our families, this is vital. This is their health and wellbeing. This is mothers and children who need to have access to good, fresh fruit and vegetables. We are helping folks to be healthy and happy," Wickersham said.

To see more services offered by Chester County Food Bank or how you can help, visit

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