Families who get SNAP benefits in need of help can get a package of food containing meat, vegetables, non-perishables and more at various sites.

Workers who were affected by the government shutdown are still catching up after 35 days without pay. That includes federal government contractors who lost pay during the stretch of more than a month from Dec. 22 to Jan. 25.

Also impacted — thousands of local families who received their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for February weeks early. As these families await their March benefits, many have had to stretch their food budgets or rely on Foodlink’s network of emergency food providers to help put food on the table.

Tom Silva with Foodlink explained the confusion the change in schedule with SNAP benefits caused. "Because of the uncertainty of what was going to happen with the government shutdown a lot of people thought they had to spend their benefits before the end of January," Silva said. "This leaves almost a whole month for most households of having no extra assistance for food."

As families scrape together what they have to try to put food on the table, Foodlink is filling what they call the "SNAP Gap." On top of the government shutdown confusion, this week is a break for students across the region. This means kids who typically eat multiple free meals at school every day will not have that option.

Foodlink this week is holding 14 special food distributions throughout the Rochester region. The distributions, set for various times and locations through Saturday, include a distribution in Rushville. Foodlink will be at Rushville United Methodist Church, 26 N. Main St., on Thursday, from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. As with the other sites listed at http://foodlinkny.org, the distribution at the church will include meat, vegetables, non-perishables and more. The Rushville distribution will run along with the regularly scheduled mobile pantry site to offer additional pantry packs to meet increased need.

"It's a really unprecedented need in our community for folks to go 40 to 50 days without their SNAP benefits," Silva added. "We're just trying to step up and help fill that need for the families who are most impacted."

On top of that, Wegmans is also helping. Wegmans has lowered the price on several items in produce, meat, dairy and more until March 2.

Foodlink reached out to its many food vendors and distributors to solicit donations to help fill pre-packed pantry boxes for those in need. Foodlink and the United Way recruited additional volunteers to pack thousands of these pantry packs in the week leading up the distribution. Packs include: Frozen chickens, frozen vegetables, eggs, juice, apples, cereal, juice, pasta, marinara sauce, bread, oatmeal, granola bars, canned peaches, canned beans, split peas, canned vegetables, peanut butter, jelly and shelf-stable milk. The contents of each pack are expected to last about three days for a family of four.

This week’s food distributions will accommodate about 250 households each and will operate on a first-come, first served basis. There are no income requirements and no ID required, though name, address and household size will be recorded. Residents must be 18 or older to accept food, and distributions will take place rain or shine.

People are encouraged to contact 2-1-1 LIFELINE to learn more about food assistance and other resources in the community.

Includes reporting by Messenger Post news partner News10NBC