Contra Costa County officials say the extended government shutdown is now starting to
impact the most vulnerable of populations: families who are struggling to put food on the table.
The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano says it serves 178,000 people each month.
Many who rely of this service receive food stamps. But they may lose this benefit soon.
Clarence Martin of Vallejo is a single father raising two sons.
To help make ends meet, the self-employed mechanic and his boys receive supplies from a food pantry and food stamps known as CalFresh in California.
Each month, Martin says he receives $400 that's onto a card which works like a debit card, to buy food.
He recently learned that he will not be getting his monthly benefits in March if the government remains shutdown.
The CalFresh program is largely funded by the U.S Department of Agriculture.
"I'm probably going to have to go some days without food for myself so my kids will be able to eat," says Martin. His family is far from being alone.
Contra Costa County officials say there are almost 4 million people in California who depend on CalFresh.
They expect more as they are now seeing unpaid federal workers apply for benefits.
"This is the worst government shutdown in my over 40 years of experience in social services," says Kathy Gallagher, director of Contra Costa County's Human Services. The agency disburses the money to recipients. She says the majority of the funds for CalFresh comes from the federal government, with some coming from the state and county, but that California's governor cannot, by law, supplement the federal funds.
"This is very scary. These are families. These are people who have needs, people have been laid off, people who don't have jobs, people who have high child care costs while they're out searching for a job," says Gallagher.
The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano and other similar nonprofits expect a greater need because of the shutdown
"We do anticipate in February when their benefits don't come through, that more people will end up showing up at our food bank distribution," says Lisa Sherrill with the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano.
As for Martin, he blames the government but that he's not taking sides.
"Even though I live paycheck to paycheck, there are some who don't have a paycheck at all who gets these CalFresh benefits. What are they going to do?" says Martin.
Food bank officials are urging everyone to contact their lawmakers to call for an end to the shutdown.
They're also asking people to donate.