How Feeding America and its network 'saved our lives' during the government shutdown

Zakkeeas, a federal worker, visiting a food bank during the government shutdown
February 11, 2019
by Paul Morello

During the monthlong government shutdown, Feeding America and its nationwide network of food banks provided much-needed food – and hope – for many of the 800,000 federal workers who missed two straight paychecks.

Many of those impacted by the shutdown had always been able to afford food and had never imagined being hungry.

People like Zakkeeas Aronson and his wife Teresa. That’s because Teresa, a medical technician for 15 years at a VA facility near Rockford, Illinois, was furloughed during the shutdown and the couple missed two straight paychecks.

“It’s like being slapped in the face by the people you work for,” Zakkeeas said.

And, his part-time security job wasn’t enough to keep the family afloat while they waited for Teresa to go back to work. So, Zakkeeas did something he didn’t expect he’d ever need to do: visit a food pantry.

“The food pantry has pretty much saved our lives,” he said. “I’d been going without meals before this.”

The pantry, organized by Northern Illinois Food Bank – a member of the Feeding America network – provided the emergency groceries Zakkeeas needed to keep his family from struggling while they waited for the shutdown to end.

Stories like Zakkeeas and Teresa’s could be found across the country as the Feeding America network ensured that federal workers who were unexpectedly without pay were able to feed their families.

“I’m very grateful for this generosity provided to us,” said Maggie* a federal employee at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. She received milk, potatoes, oranges and shelf-stable food at a distribution at the airport, organized by the North Texas Food Bank.

“I am the primary breadwinner for my family and I have two teenage daughters,” she said.

Other food banks – like the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, D.C. – opened pop-up markets to address the elevated need. They served people like Tracey, a federal employee of 27 years and mother of three.

“I told my youngest, ‘we have enough food right here to make family meals for a few days.'”

Because of your support, Feeding America and its network mounted an immediate, vigorous response to hunger to ensure those impacted by the shutdown had the food they needed. Help us thank food banks for their incredible work and make a donation to Feeding America to ensure we’ll be able to feed hungry families year-round.  

*Client name changed to maintain anonymity.