SoCal Food Banks Are Getting Ready To Feed Unpaid Federal Workers

Pastor Darryl Jackson unloads boxes of donated food at Love Chapel in Ontario, Jan. 15 2019 (David Wagner/KPCC).

In what has become the longest government shutdown on record, federal workers missed their first paycheck last week. Now Southern California food banks are getting ready to feed them.

One Inland Empire church is opening a food pantry this weekend to help employees at the nearby Ontario International Airport, many of whom are currently working without pay.

"This whole community is connected to the airport," said Darryl Jackson, the pastor at a small, non-denominational church in Ontario called Love Chapel.

Jackson hears planes overhead all the time. He was troubled by reports about how the government shutdown was affecting TSA workers.

"So I thought, you know, they're suffering," Jackson said. "We're right here in the community. What better way to help?"

Love Chapel hasn't had a food pantry in the past. But Jackson said he's been getting calls from people asking if the church had any resources for those struggling to make ends meet during the shutdown.

Jackson called his region's food bank, Feeding America in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. On Tuesday, a truck came to the church to drop off boxes full of canned soup, cereal, fresh fruit and other items. Jackson estimates church volunteers will be able to hand out food to about 60 families on Saturday.

"We're going to try to concentrate on government employees. That's our first priority," he said. "As the day draws by, if we still have enough, then we'll open it up."

Lori Butler, the food bank's director of philanthropy, encouraged federal workers in the Inland Empire to find their local pantry on Feeding America's website. But she said they could also pick up emergency food kits at the organization's central food bank in Riverside.

"I think a lot of people are holding out — but worried," Butler said. Government workers have been calling Feeding America, "checking in advance that there will be resources available to them, if they need it," she said.

Heads of other local food banks say they're also preparing for increased need.

Los Angeles Regional Food Bank President Michael Flood said he hasn't seen any spike in demand yet. But he said it's possible some government workers are already showing up at local pantries.

"When someone comes in and seeks food assistance, they're not necessarily going to identify why they're there," he said. "Our sense is the longer the shutdown goes on, the more people will need to turn to food pantries."