CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The government shutdown is hitting close to home for thousands of families in North Carolina. That's because there's not enough money pay for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC.
If you weren't looking for the sign that says "We Accept WIC" you might not notice it, but for more than 20,000 people in Mecklenburg County, that sign means food on the table that is paid for by the federal government.
"They receive milk, juice, cheese and eggs and whole-grain cereals," said Dr. Wina Nevling, Iredell County WIC director.
Nevling said those are just some of the items that can be bought with food vouchers through the supplemental nutrition program known as WIC.
Nevling had to turn people away Wednesday because the government shutdown means no more federal funding for North Carolina.
"I feel terrible. It's not our problem and we want to serve our clients, and there's a void when this service is not provided," Nevling said.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services officials said that about 80 percent of those eligible have already been given benefits for this month. They will be OK for now as there's enough money to cover those vouchers. There's no money to issue more vouchers because of the federal government shutdown, according to the state.
Mecklenburg County Commission chairwoman Pat Cotham told us the shutdown's effect on the WIC program raises concerns for families.
She was at the health department Wednesday to see what else can be done. "We can't bail out the federal government, but we can take care of our own," she said.
Second Harvest Food Bank in Charlotte is making plans to meet the demand.
We found shelves stocked with baby food and boxes full of diapers when we stopped by Wednesday.
Shay Marritt said there are some supplies the food bank still needs.
"The concern will be for infant formula for young children, because that will be hard to find," she said.
In Iredell County, other agencies are stepping in to help.
"Food banks are organizing a drive to get formula donated for these clients to help meet this gap," Nevling said.
Starting Wednesday, people will be put on a waiting list to get vouchers once the government shutdown ends. The state said DHHS will monitor federal funds every day and announce any changes.
The state and several counties said if you have been issued a voucher or other benefits, keep using them. If you have a WIC appointment, keep it. People will be put on a waiting list for when benefits are available again. The state recommends people try to apply for food stamps, or try to find a local food bank.
Across the state, the WIC program helps 264,000 women and children each month.
Food Lion donates $500K to help WIC families
Food Lion is donating $500,000 to several North Carolina food banks to help people who lost federal food vouchers because of the government shutdown.
Food Lion is donating the money in $5 gift cards to food banks in Asheville, Charlotte, Elizabeth City, Fayetteville, Raleigh and Winston-Salem. Company officials say the grocery store chain is donating the money because the federal government shutdown has closed a program called WIC — the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.
Food banks will distribute the gift cards to partner agencies and constituents in the next several weeks or buy food for the food bank.
Food Lion President Beth Newlands Campbell says she hopes the cards help families who must make tough choices, like whether to pay rent or buy formula.