SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — As the deadline for a federal government shutdown looms, concerns are growing over the fate of federal food assistance programs. If Congress fails to take action before midnight on Sunday, millions of Americans who rely on these programs could be left without the support they need.

One program that could be particularly hard hit is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). Nearly 7 million mothers and young children rely on WIC for financial support, which helps cover the cost of nutritious food.

In the event of a government shutdown, the fate of these programs would be up in the air, putting additional pressure on local food pantries. The potential loss of benefits could create an even bigger burden for families who are already struggling to make ends meet.

“We are utilizing the resources that we have and we are being the best stewards of the dollars that we have,” said Kristy Carter, Executive Director of Least of These, a local food pantry. “So we’re able to stretch those funds for every dollar donated $10 worth of food, but that can only go so far.”

Despite the uncertainty, community resources like food pantries are stepping up to help fill the gap. Least of These is reaching out to the community, encouraging donations and volunteers, to be ready to serve those who may have nowhere else to turn.

As the debate over a potential government shutdown continues, the fate of federal food assistance programs remains in limbo. However, local communities and organizations are doing their best to prepare for the worst and ensure that those in need are not left without support.