(Photos and video by Beth Hollerich)
The federal government shutdown is over – for now – but Pittsburgh International Airport officials plan to continue some food assistance this week as workers get back on their feet.
Federal workers at the airport got a boost last week when the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank delivered more than 15,000 pounds of food and other household staples. The delivery was large to serve 300 households to establish a food pantry at the airport as the federal shutdown was in its fifth week.
Late last week, PIT staff handed out groceries to 250 federal employees including Transportation Security Administration agents, air traffic controllers and others who have been working without a paycheck during the federal government shutdown, now in its second month.
“It’s important that we continue to do everything we can to assist our federal partners as they get back on their feet post-shutdown,” said Elise Farris, manager of customer relations for Airport Authority, who helped to coordinate the food pantry. “Our federal partners are continued to show up for work to ensure the safety of the traveling public without a paycheck.”
Plans are to continue the distributions this week to give affected employees a chance to recover from the missed paychecks, said Lisa Scales, president and CEO of the food bank. Officials will reevaluate needs going forward.
“The immediate effect of the government shutdown was being felt by 20,000 federal employees in our region who have either been furloughed or being asked to work without pay,” Scales said.
“TSA agents and air traffic controllers already have demanding, stressful jobs,” she added. “We’re glad we can minimize the stress and worry of putting food on the table for themselves and their families. We’re pleased to partner with PIT to assist with this effort.”
When the shutdown began on Dec. 22, nearly 300 TSA employees, air traffic controllers and others worked without a paycheck and reporting to work each day. Earlier in the month, PIT officials teamed with airport vendors to provide free lunches on multiple days of the week to TSA officers and other federal employees. The lunch program will also continue this week.
The food bank hosted special food distributions in different parts of the region for federal employees and all others affected by the government shutdown. In 2018, the Food Bank provided more than 34 million meals in its 11-county southwestern Pennsylvania service area.