Food Pantries Help Federal Workers, Coast Guard Amid Shutdown

Furloughed and unpaid government employees are struggling to buy necessities amid the weekslong government shutdown.

Food pantries across the country are working to help federal employees who missed a paycheck on Friday due to the ongoing partial government shutdown, including one in Boston that has helped hundreds of U.S. Coast Guard families so far.

This week, the Massachusetts Military Foundation set up a pop-up pantry specifically for families of the Coast Guard, which is the only military branch currently working without pay. Almost 400 families stopped by in the first two days to take advantage of the 30,000 pounds of free food, according to NPR.

Many families are in need of food and necessities that are often difficult and expensive to buy, foundation President Don Cox told NPR.

“We’ve been hit hard with the baby food, the diapers,” Cox said. “I mean it’s just a tidal wave.”

Boston Globe via Getty Images

Food pantries and nonprofits in other parts of the country are also working to help federal employees who are either furloughed or working without pay throughout the shutdown. A food pantry in Lawrence, Kansas, decided to waive its poverty guidelines so that struggling federal employees could get a week of free groceries.

“Our policy is to err on the side of compassion,” Just Food Executive Director Elizabeth Keever told the Lawrence Journal-World. “No one should go without food during a difficult time.”

Portland, Oregon, food pantry William Temple House is also prepared to help as many federal workers as it can. The nonprofit also expects an influx of people needing food if the government doesn’t provide Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits due to the shutdown. The government has only guaranteed food stamps through February.

The shutdown has affected about 800,000 federal employees, among them thousands of Coast Guard members.

Jenny James is married to a member of the Coast Guard and has two children. She told NPR that the pop-up pantry in Boston is helping her save what little money she has left for other necessities.

“It’s very comforting to know a little weight lifted off of me having to worry about putting food on the table,” James said. “Especially when you don’t know what the future holds.”

The Coast Guard posted a memo online earlier this week offering stinging financial advice to its furloughed workers: holding garage sales, finding a babysitting gig or dog-walking for cash. Officials removed the memo Wednesday after The Washington Post asked about the financial advice.

Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Scott McBride told the Post it pulled the memo because it didn’t “reflect the Coast Guard’s current efforts to support our workforce during this lapse in appropriations.”

At 21 days as of Friday, the partial shutdown fueled by President Donald Trump’s $5.7 billion border wall push is poised to become the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.

HuffPost readers: Are you affected by the government shutdown? Email us about it. If you’re willing to be interviewed, please provide a phone number.

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