The government is still shut down, but in Oklahoma, traffic at food pantries is picking up.
The Food and Resource Center of South Central Oklahoma, which serves Love, Carter, Murray and Johnston Counties, averages about 1,475 families a month. Executive Director James Rosson said centers like his throughout the state are planning ahead, anticipating furloughed federal employees and their families will need extra support.
“We stand ready to help anybody who’s been effected, so that’s not a problem,” Rosson said. “It’s more a capacity thing, in case they get really overwhelmed and need to send people to other places. It’s a long drive, but we’ll give them a lot of groceries.”
The majority of food at the center comes from the main hub in Oklahoma City. Rosson said in this part of the state, there aren’t as many federal employees to begin with, and the impact isn’t as heavy as other areas. Lawton, on the other hand, has many more that are employed at Fort Sill and are going without pay.
“There’s a ton of federal employees,” Rosson said. “The [center] over there is getting hammered.”
Rosson said the center is waiving certain income requirements and paperwork for people who are being effected by the shutdown.
“Just come shop,” Rosson said. “We’ll give them 90 pounds of groceries, a couple hundred dollars’ worth. That’s the best thing we can do.”
The center in Ardmore is one of many throughout the state that partner with the Regional Food Bank in Oklahoma City. He said the centers are staying in contact with one another and ready to lend help to the locations with a higher volume of visitors.
“If that has to happen, it’ll happen,” Rosson said.
More federal employers call larger cities like Oklahoma City home. Robson said if the shutdown were to drag out longer, centers in those cities might start sending people to Ardmore and surrounding locations.
“Just come shop, we’ll get them fixed up,” Rosson said. “That’s what’s going on with all the food banks. We’re just telling people ‘let us help you.’”
The center is funded through grants and donations, which means they will continue to operate throughout the shutdown.
“In an event like this, it’s kind of all bets are off,” Rosson said. “We’re going to help the people that need to be helped.”
Rosson said he anticipates demand will climb steadily the longer the shutdown — now the longest in American history — wears on.
“It depends on how long this thing goes,” Rosson said. “As of today, we’re okay, but in a couple of weeks they won’t be. The employees and us.”