A sense of urgency characterized the last weeks of January, for our commitment to ensuring access to healthy food necessitated a quick response during the government shutdown. Media coverage and calls from donors and clients reflected strong concerns for federal workers.

Many thanks to the teams that collaborated to set up three food distributions for federal workers. New partnerships were formed quickly, and staff members volunteered at distributions at the last minute. Truck drop-offs, bags and carts for clients, and managing press activity provided challenges, but in the end employees at San Francisco International and Mineta San Jose International Airports and NASA Ames received fresh produce and pantry staples.

Photo: Mineta San Jose International Airport

While at San Francisco International Airport, a public location facing the bus drop-off lots meant large groups curiously parading by the tables of fresh foods. Applause and cheers came from sports teams, dance crews, and others. One volunteer expressed her gratitude for the federal workers, reflecting, “It’s really a great experience out here helping all these people that have been without pay and that are so important. I’ve seen airport security, border security go through [the distribution].” Gratitude from both volunteers and clients underlined Second Harvest’s focus on community and the idea that any one of us could need a little help at any given time.

CEO Leslie Bacho and San Francisco International Airport Director Ivar Satero

Our CEO Leslie Bacho explained the challenge of reaching a new audience, pointing out that “A lot of these workers, they may not have had to ask for assistance before. We want them to understand that it’s a very easy process.” Professional volunteers and careful coordination ensured respect for our clients’ privacy and a welcoming experience. We recognize that asking for help can be difficult and that many of our clients at these sites experienced a sudden change in lifestyle.

Overall our work included:

  • Publicizing food resources through county offices
  • Paid social media campaigns connecting individuals to food resources
  • Pop-up distributions in partnership with elected officials, unions, and other organizations

Need food? Visit https://www.shfb.org/get-food/ or call 1-800-984-3663.

General questions about our work during the shutdown? Call us at 866-234-3663 or email donor.relations@shfb.org.

If the shutdown resumes, we will update this post with a link to all relevant information regarding federal programs, special distributions and other news.