Because of the federal government shutdown, the Missouri Department of Social Services (DSS) has advised University of Missouri Extension to suspend certain federally funded nutrition education programs until further notice.
This suspension will affect more than 100 Extension faculty and staff as well as the clients they serve, including 260,000 students in grades kindergarten through 12 and 78,000 adults at more than 1,000 schools, libraries and other sites across the state.
These nutrition education programs receive $10.4 million in federal funding from the USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for Extension teaching and training. DSS administers the funding.
All affected SNAP educational programs, including classes, outreach efforts and other activities, were suspended at 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3.
In Phelps County, the federally funded nutrition programs served 6,800 last year.
In addition to direct education through schools and community agencies, more than 130,000 families who use food pantries will not receive educational materials in their food packages this month.
These materials enable them to prepare healthy meals for their families with the foods that they receive.
Additionally, the websites and a 1-800-number where participants can find additional resources have been shut down until the federal budget issue is resolved.
Chantae H. Alfred, Phelps County Extension program coordinator, said the county Extension office has one nutrition program associate.
MU Extension will fund the affected positions through Oct. 21. However, if permanent funding is not restored by then, MU Extension will be forced to issue layoffs because of insufficient internal funding.
The temporary internal funding will keep the employees on the payroll but cannot cover the costs of travel, supplies and other expenses needed to maintain programming.
During this time, faculty and staff involved in the affected family nutrition programs will communicate cancellations to schools and constituents and prepare for the resumption of normal operations should funding be restored.
“If at all possible, we do not want to lose these employees and the investment we have made in them,” said Michael Ouart, MU vice provost and director of Extension. “These employees have built valuable relationships in communities all across Missouri. Losing them would have long-lasting effects on the health and eating habits of future generations of Missouri’s children.”
MU Extension administration informed affected employees of the situation on Oct. 3.
“We realize this is a difficult and stressful time for these dedicated employees who perform a valuable service for families in Missouri,” Ouart said. “We’re cautiously optimistic that funding will be restored before layoffs become necessary. But if that doesn’t happen, we will make a concerted effort to connect them to available assistance and resources.”