The Transportation Security Administration at Reagan National Airport has started a food pantry for employees who’ve lost out on pay, or their jobs altogether, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Airport employees are a casualty of the industry-wide decline wrought by COVID-19’s effect on travel businesses as a whole.
Similar to Dulles International Airport’s TSA that began its own food pantry last month, Reagan National’s TSA thought it would be a good way to pay back airport employees who lent a hand during the nearly month-long federal government shutdown in Jan. 2019.
“It’s a one-stop shop for airport employees who are in need,” said Shanita Wylie, in a news release, who is a TSA program analyst who assisted the TSA’s employee morale group at Reagan National coordinate the opening of the pantry.
“Just over a year ago, federal employees were furloughed and were provided so much support by the entire airport community, and now we are here continuing the trend of support and showing them our appreciation.”
“The Pantry” stocks food and toiletries, such as cereal, evaporated milk, soup, pasta, pasta sauce, Ramen noodles, canned meats, macaroni and cheese, toothpaste, soap, laundry detergent, feminine products, diapers, deodorant and other goods.
Staff bring their own bags to the food pantry and give their shopping list to an off-duty TSA employee, who then fills it up with their selected items.
Others are trading in things they have in excess, such as one woman who brought cans of carrots that her kids didn’t want and got rice in exchange for them.
The TSA officers themselves are making sure the pantry stays stocked.
Employee Kavita Harvin has donated beans, rice, canned goods, bottled water and hygiene products. She even volunteers to work the pantry for two hours before the start of her shift.
“We have a lot of food here, but the paper towels, toilet paper and toiletries are what is often hard to find in stores,” said TSA officer Briana Battle, who picked up paper towels and laundry detergent to contribute to the pantry on her last family shopping trip.
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She saw first-hand how airport employees stepped up to help TSA employees during the furlough.
It’s why she is motivated to volunteer her time and pick up extra items for the pantry’s shelves as well.
“We’re paying it forward for those who helped us when we were not receiving paychecks,” Wylie said.
A key distinction, however, is that TSA employees eventually received back pay when the government shutdown ended.
These airport employees won’t enjoy that same privilege.
“Airport workers are essential and they can’t get to the stores right away when they restock shelves,” Tara Simmons, a longtime TSA employee, said.
During the most recent government shutdown, Simmons’ husband was the only one bringing a paycheck home for her family of four.
“This is a good opportunity for me to show my gratitude for when my family was impacted by what was happening.”
She sees the TSA as being able to help fill that void.
The pantry first opened on April 24 and runs for a few hours every weekday.
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority provides the space for the pantry in Terminal A, across the hall from the TSA’s lost and found office.