MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As day 28 of the federal shutdown comes to a close, fears of the continued strain on food shelves and federal food assistance programs grows.

Friday afternoon, Sen. Tina Smith met with state partners and voiced her frustration about putting them in jeopardy.

WCCO-TV found out what our system can support, and who may need to step in to help.

It’s no question food is the foundation. Just ask Cecilia Chapman.

“When you talk about food, it does become a real issue and real crisis,” Chapman said.

She met with Smith and food partners from around the state Friday. She relies on the SNAP assistance program, and is concerned where her meals will come from if the government stays shutdown.

“I don’t know where else we can turn,” Chapman said. “We do turn to the food shelf, but I don’t know where else we could turn.”

Right now, the federal program is funded through February, but the shutdown is forcing food banks to look ahead. Second Harvest Heartland distributes 75 percent of the food at food shelves. It’s prepared to meet the needs of furloughed workers, but the emergency food hub can’t handle feeding another 400,000 SNAP recipients in the state.

Inside Second Harvest Heartland’s food storage facility (credit: CBS)

“We would have to increase the supply by three times and we’re already stretched thin,” said Marcus Schmit, director of advocacy for Second Harvest Heartland. “We’re already doing everything that we can to bring in more healthy food for folks who need it for the one in eight Minnesota kids experiencing hunger right now. We can’t respond to an increase in demand that significant.”

Department of Human Services Commissioner Tony Lourey said the state is figuring out how it can step in if needed. The SNAP program costs $42 million to $44 million per month in Minnesota.

“We are working through that. Gov. Walz has made it very clear if the feds aren’t ready to lead, Minnesota is,” Lourey said.

“What you see is this cascading impact, and we are fortunate that we have such strong leadership at the state,” Sen. Smith said. “What we need to do is re-open government so Minnesota doesn’t have to step in and fill this gap.”

Second Harvest Heartland asks those who can to donate more to them or their local food shelf. If you’re in need of food assistance, call 1-888-711-1151.

You can also visit DHS’s SNAP information page.

Jennifer Mayerle