Thousands of Memphis children will go hungry after the federal government shutdown pulled funding for the Building Futures program.
The Building Futures charity has provided a meal or snack every day to about 4,000 youngsters to a half dozen of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis.
"For a lot of those kids that we serve, close to a 1,000 a day, that was their meal for the day, and for some of those families," said Charles Griffin, vice president of operations.
Within hours of the government shutdown early Tuesday, several federally funded programs immediately started cutting back, including Building Futures.
"I think it's more of a regulation that they're not allowed to serve meals because of the way that their program is structured," said Megan Klein, vice president of resource development and marketing.
Griffin and Klein say the Club is known as an after-school safe haven for children. Klein says Building Futures provided a free meal every day for 4,000 children at six clubs across the Mid-South.
"Their meal at the end of the day that allows them to refuel and sleep well and be ready for school the next morning, and be attentive in class is that dinner meal," Klein said.
The Club was notified within hours of the government shutdown, Klein added. Non-profits already are stretched thin since the start of the recession, making federally funded programs vital.
"That's when government programs like Building Futures was able to help stand in the gap, allow us to continue to add services for the kids without having to support a meal service," she said.
Most of Clubs' parents are single and working to provide their children the basics. Griffin and Klein said just the support of offering one meal makes a difference.
"We have the working poor," Griffin said. "A lot of our parents just can't afford to make ends meet. They're working. That's why the Boys & Girls Club is very important because we help those parents who are trying to make ends meet."
The Club is looking at a contingency plan, including churches and volunteers to help supplement until the shutdown ends. Yet, Griffin says it's hard to explain to hungry children in Memphis how the inaction of adults in Washington, D.C., has led to one less meal for them.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis serves children between 6 and 18 and focus on tutoring, healthy life skill, career building and sports.