Menendez Visits Passaic Food Bank as Trump Shutdown Impact on Families Deepens

Menendez Visits Passaic Food Bank as Trump Shutdown Impact on Families Deepens

PASSAIC, N.J. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez today visited SMILE for Charity, a local food bank serving the City of Passaic, as the Trump Shutdown enters its second month and threatens to impact federal food assistance programs, straining local resources and putting at risk the food security of thousands of New Jersey families.

“Enough is enough.  For more than a month, thousands of working families across New Jersey have been held hostage by the Trump Shutdown over a useless border wall the President promised Mexico would pay for,” said Sen. Menendez.  “And soon hundreds of thousands more will lose the food security assistance they rely on.  Donald Trump and the Republican leadership may not know the real people they’re hurting – or even care – but I do.  They are our neighbors and friends, struggling to put food on the table or keep a roof over their heads. And not one of them is responsible for this mess.”


As the longest government shutdown in American history reaches Day 32, local government workers have been turning to organizations, like SMILE, for help.  But because of the Trump Shutdown, SNAP, federal assistance to our local food banks, and school lunch programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are projected to run out of funding at the end of February, creating a perfect storm: Increased pressure on food banks, like SMILE, as all federal food benefits lapse, and less food available to distribute to the most vulnerable.

“An interruption of SNAP benefits will have real consequences.  Families will be forced to make extremely difficult choices like: skip meals, choose between buying food and medications, choose between buying food and diapers, visit food pantries, and choose low quality, cheap foods,” said Salim Patel, SMILE’s board chairman and a Passaic city councilman.  “If the shutdown continues beyond mid-February, we will be looking at increasing our budget, hours for our food pantry, and allowances, as well as staff who can serve those impacted by the shutdown.  Individuals who are federal employees, who many not regularly meet eligibility requirements, will automatically qualify for our food pantry as well.  We expect that most food pantries and other nonprofits will be particularly strained during this time, and will likely rely on increased community generosity to support our clients.”

Nearly 70 percent of SNAP beneficiaries are families with children.  And nearly a third are households that include seniors or people with disabilities.  Across New Jersey, more than 700,000 participate in the SNAP program each month.

“I work full-time in a factory, but it doesn’t give me enough to feed my family,” said Alberta Jimenez, a single mom who relies on SNAP to feed her three young daughters.  “With this program, I have the security that they will not go to sleep on an empty stomach.  But now that the federal government is shut down by President Trump, I’m afraid I won’t be able to feed my daughters.”  

“Donald Trump has never had to lay in bed awake at night, wondering how he’s going to make this month’s rent, or where Don Jr.’s next meal is going to come from,” Sen. Menendez said.  “He doesn’t understand what it’s like for a family that’s fallen on tough times and must rely on the generosity of total strangers to survive.  What kind of American President is willing to let the neediest families in our country go hungry over a ludicrous campaign promise?”

The Trump Shutdown has had a devastating impact on working families, leaving more than 800,000 federal workers—including 5,000 in New Jersey—either on furlough or working without pay. Many of these workers live paycheck to paycheck and do not know when or if they will be able to afford rent, food, and medicine.

Yesterday, Sen. Menendez rallied with affected federal workers in South Jersey and the AFL-CIO for an end to the shutdown.

Sen. Menendez has cosponsored several pieces of legislation to lessen the blow and ensure federal employees and federal contractors impacted by the shutdown are made whole:

Sen. Menendez met Friday with a dozen affected federal workers who shared their personal struggles and concerns, including dipping into savings, skipping meals and falling behind on bills.

Sen. Menendez last Wednesday shared the story of a struggling furloughed New Jerseyan on the Senate Floor in demanding President Trump and the Senate Republican Majority reopen the government.  The senator has repeatedly called for an end to the Trump Shutdown and pressed Majority Leader McConnell to call a vote on House-passed legislation that has already gained bipartisan approvals in the Senate.