If your news feeds are like mine, they’re probably casting a shadow over even the sunniest days with stories of the continued government shutdown, now in its 35th day. There are roughly 800,000 workers not getting paid right now, and the average federal employee has missed around $5,000 in pay to date.
The people, however, are rallying. Nationwide, chefs, restaurants, and other food-industry groups and individuals are offering a variety of deals and discounts for those federal employees currently not taking home a paycheck. And while free White Castle won’t end the shutdown, it along with other moves and initiatives from the restaurant industry do address a basic need for furloughed government workers: food.
The good news — and we need some right now — is that efforts around the country have grown so much the following list barely scratches the surface of resources available to furloughed workers. We’ll be updating this list until the shutdown ends, so check back for more info each week.
Major restaurant chains are one of the biggest players offering assistance. As mentioned above, White Castle will offer federal employees nationwide a free Combo Meal or Breakfast Combo Meal to furloughed federal employees. (The chain also offered up its food truck to host a SliderSummit, which would be a gathering of D.C. leaders “with the aim to continue important conversations.”) Meanwhile, all Potbelly locations offer a buy-one-get-one-free sandwich to those federal employees carrying their ID, and Sweetgreen will offer free food to furloughed government workers tomorrow (January 26), from 6 to 8 p.m. In Southern California, federal employees can show an ID at one of Jimmy John’s 35 locations in the region and get a free sandwich.
And as the shutdown drags into its second month, we’re also seeing non-profits at the local level step up. Yesterday, the Oakland County Board of Commissioners announced its considering a proposal to lay aside $1 million to support local agencies with their food assistance programs. In Charlotte, organizations like Loaves & Fishes and Crisis Assistance Ministry are assisting with feeding furloughed workers, many of whom aren’t, according to one report, people who typically need assistance.
Around the country, airports — where TSA employees have continued to work without pay — are addressing the food issue in many different ways. NRN reports that at O’Hare International Airport, McDonald’s is providing 1,500 free Extra Value Meal vouchers to TSA employees, who have been working without pay since the shutdown started. In Tampa, FL, the airport has worked with local banks and a United Way chapter to create a resource center for TSA, Customs and Border Protection, and Federal Aviation Administration employees. The center, run by Feeding Tampa Bay, gives out food parcels to the employees and their families. At Miami International, Haitian restaurant Chef Créole is serving free lunch and dinner to federal employees.
Want to help? Here’s what you can do: #ChefsForFeds is one of several organizations where you can provide help to furloughed workers. Other food-centric organizations include the United for US Fund (run by United Way) and Feeding America.
If you know of restaurants or individuals assisting furloughed workers, feel free to drop us a line in the comments and let us know, so we can add them to our list.
Update: President Trump announced Friday a deal to temporarily end the shutdown. According to the LA Times, the agreement states that federal workers will receive back pay for the time they were furloughed. The deal includes a three-week extension of government funding — though some argue we could face another shutdown come February 15 when this deal expires.
Regardless, many workers will still face financial uncertainty, given the amount of wages lost over the last month. Let’s hope some of these organizations discussed above are willing to extend their generosity to workers a little while longer.