WASHINGTON — They are the workers whose jobs serve the people of the United States. But as the partial government shutdown enters its second month with no apparent end in sight, thousands of government employees now are relying on the people of the United States to help them feed their own families. It’s like one giant government bread line — except for government workers.
The outpouring of support has been widespread and creative, high-profile and grass-roots. For every relief kitchen opened by José Andrés and his nonprofit World Central Kitchen — the celebrity chef and humanitarian recently said more kitchens are coming after the first one debuted here last week — there are countless small markets and programs.
Restaurants and chefs, of course, have been giving away free or discounted food, including a cruise line in Florida that has opened a pair of boats to federal workers so they can dig into a free lunch buffet. But now farmers markets, food banks, and other organizations are finding ways to help workers who haven’t received a paycheck since December.
A farmers market in Greensboro, N.C., is matching every dollar that a federal contractor or furloughed employee spends, up to $50, essentially extending supplemental food stamp benefits to government workers. A relief agency in Philadelphia is, for the first time in its history, enacting a disaster plan to help feed federal employees. The Capital Area Food Bank, which usually helps low-income residents in the Washington area, has expanded its assistance to include ‘‘pop-up markets’’ at Giant Food stores to pass out free groceries to furloughed federal employees. Even a nonprofit health-care system in southern New Jersey has started an emergency food drive.
The website My FED Benefits has created an interactive assistance map to help workers in every state find programs to support them through the shutdown.
On Jan. 13, a few Washingtonians teamed up to launch one of the more creative relief efforts: PayItFurloughed.com is a site that allows anyone to buy furloughed employees a beer at one of three District breweries. It was developed by Mess Hall food incubator founder Al Goldberg, food writer Nevin Martell, web and app developer 3Advance, and publicist Erick Sanchez. To date, more than 3,850 beers have been donated from people far and wide, including those living in Australia, Singapore, the Netherlands, and elsewhere, Martell said.