With increasing numbers of employees of the federal government and federal contractors nationwide forced to seek charitable food after missing a paycheck, Hunger Free America, a national nonprofit group, announced a new “Fed Food” toll-free 800 line and web portal to help anyone affected to locate free food and/or to volunteer their time to fight hunger.
Any employee of the federal government or a federal contractor — or any family member of such an employee — who is struggling financially as a result of the government shutdown, can call the toll free number 855-859-4647 or go to http://www.HungerFreeAmerica.org/FedFood to find food resources (such as government food programs and private food pantries) near them and/or to be connected with anti-hunger volunteer activities so they can productively utilize their time off work.
The toll-free line will have live operators answering calls Mondays – Fridays, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Eastern Time, and will take messages at other times. The hotline and web portal will be active as long as the shutdown lasts.
Explaining this new effort, Hunger Free America CEO Joel Berg, said: “We want to make sure that anyone harmed by the shutdown can get and/or give help. Last Friday, hundreds of thousands of federal employees affected by the shutdown missed their first paycheck. The lowest paid federal employees — at the GS 3 pay level — have starting salaries of only $23,043. Numerous low-paid employees of federal contractors have also missed paychecks. Given that one in five Americans overall have either zero savings or have debt larger than their savings, it’s clear that low-income federal employees could quickly run out of food after being denied even one paycheck. Many dedicated public servants will need extra help with food. This shutdown vividly demonstrates just how many Americans are only one missed paycheck away from hunger.”
In Ogden, Utah — home to thousands of IRS and U.S. Forest Service workers — Catholic Community Services of Northern Utah waived the income requirements to access its food pantry so that federal workers could utilize it twice a month during the shutdown. In Huntington, West Virginia, employees of the Ashland Federal Corrections Institution have been forced to get food from a local food bank. Coast Guard employees in Key West, Florida have accessed charitable food for the first time.
Continued Berg, “Since most of the federal nutrition assistance programs are now funded through February, we can help federal employees who may now qualify for them to access them while they last. Ironically, some of the employees that administer federal food assistance may be now be eligible to obtain help from such programs. We can also help all federal employees and contract employees locate private charities that provide food help, although food pantries nationwide were overwhelmed before the shutdown, and they only have a limited supply of food, so there is no absolute guarantee that when people contact us for food help and we refer them to a local food program, they will get all the help they need. But if we can help even a little bit, we need to try.”
Berg himself was a federal employee for eight years, working as an appointee at the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1993 to 2001.
“I know from personal experience that most federal employees are very hard working and highly dedicated to public service,” Berg said. “That’s why we also want to make it easier for them to use their furloughed time to serve the public by performing anti-hunger volunteer service.”