Gov't Shutdown May Mean Fewer Groceries for Military Families

For those families who shop at military commissaries, the federal shutdown has created a budgeting headache

Wednesday, Oct 2, 2013  |  Updated 11:09 AM PDT
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Commissary Closures Hit Military Families

Crowds of shoppers emptied store shelves at base commissaries Tuesday in an attempt to stock up.

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Commissary Closures Hit Military Families

Base commissaries in San Diego were packed Tuesday as families stocked up in preparation for the closure of the military stores indefinitely as a result of the U.S. government shutdown. NBC 7's Dave Summers reports.
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For some military families, the government shutdown may mean fewer groceries.

Ashley Guerrero usually shops at the commissary at Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, where she can make purchases at a discount.

But as of Wednesday, the commissary and others like it will be closed indefinitely.

Now, the military wife and mother is cutting back and searching for bargains to offset the higher prices.

"We only got like maybe quarter of what we'd usually get because we're kind of waiting it out to see when it might open up again," she said while shopping at a Kearny Mesa WalMart, where formula alone costs $8 more than it does on base.

While lawmakers in Washington, D.C. refuse to come to terms in the impasse that has shut down federal services like the IRS and national parks, employees of the federal government are feeling the pressure.

Nearly 2,000 civilian employees of local Marine Corps bases were furloughed in what could be a weeks-long closure of the federal government. Another 500 civilian employees were on furlough from San Diego-area naval bases.

Now, military families say they are faced with a new problem - managing an already tight monthly grocery budget.

“We're very lucky to have the commissary especially in a city like San Diego where the cost of living is expensive,” military mom Catie Griffith said.

With two children at home, Griffith had to leave her teaching job. Her husband, Ryan, is still getting his Navy pay but it shrinks significantly without commissary discounts. She estimates the loss to be more than 20-percent.

The savings for some families could range from hundreds to thousands of dollars a year.

“If I am buying for a full two weeks I would say anywhere from $50 to $75 I'll spend more,” military wife Dawn Daus said. “That will be an immediate impact on us.”

Military Exchanges will stay open for now, but a number of other base services like education centers and pass & ID offices were closed.

Funding for much of the government was cut off Tuesday after a Republican effort to thwart President Barack Obama's health care law stalled a short-term, normally routine spending bill.

Read: Five Ways Gov't Shutdown Could End

Republicans pivoted to a strategy to try to reopen the government piecemeal but were unable to immediately advance the idea in the House of Representatives.

Nearly a third of the federal workforce -- some 800,000 employees -- was forced off the job, closing down services from informational websites to national parks.

People classified as essential employees -- such as air traffic controllers, Border Patrol agents and most food inspectors -- continued to work.

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