Emergency Food for Federal Furlough Workers: Pantries Around the Country Step-in During the Government Shutdown
By CHHS Extern Kyla Kaplan
The 35-day government shutdown may be over for now, but its impact will continue for those who were deeply affected by it. One of the big effects of the shutdown was the large amount of federal workers that work paycheck to paycheck and could no longer afford to buy food. That is where food pantries came in across the country, to supply even more people with food than they already do. Not only did already active food pantries step-up, but also new food markets were created to support furloughed federal workers.
Different cities handled the new onset of food insecure individuals in different ways. Below is an analysis of how different cities approached the need for food security the shutdown.
Due to the sheer amount of federal government workers in Washington, D.C., D.C. may have been hit the hardest by the shutdown. Washington, D.C. food banks typically serve about 3 million meals in January and there are estimates that this January they served an additional 300,000-600,000 meals. Alone, food pantries in D.C. could likely not supply everyone in need with enough food. Not only is the cost of these extra meals hard to bear, but there is also a need for more employees. Therefore, other emergency efforts have begun to take place. One example is José Andrés’s emergency kitchen, which opened on January 16, 2019. José Andrés’s is a famous humanitarian chef, who used his organization World Central Kitchen to open a pop-up kitchen, in Washington, D.C., specifically to supply federal workers with fresh foods.
Miami had some efforts of their own to help Florida cope with the shutdown. The Coalition of South Florida Muslim Organizations (COSMOS) and the Islamic School of Miami offered food baskets for workers throughout the entirety of the shut down. These baskets contained non-perishable foods that furloughed workers could use to support themselves and their families. Farm Share, another program based in Florida, also used their model of collecting donations to scale-up their already large food bank and charitable pack house. The Farm Share program formed a relief effort coalition to collect and distribute food for those in need.
In Tucson, nearly 300 federal workers went to receive emergency food boxes from the community food bank in Southern Arizona. Representatives of community food banks noted that community help and support for food banks “has never been more important.” Other efforts within the Tucson community include free lunch opportunities sprouting up around the area, as well as a partnership with Feeding America to be able to bring more meals to the area.
If anything good could be said to come out of this government shutdown it is a reminder that in emergency situations it is those on the local level that step-up and support those in need. One of the key principles of emergency management is that disaster response begins and ends at the local level. It is the local government that acts as the “first provider” when an emergency strikes. Local efforts to provide food to furloughed federal workers remind us that local governments should always be empowered to mitigate the effects of adverse events.