At area food banks, feds lend a hand — even though they themselves need help

BALTIMORE, Md. — The longest government shutdown on record is taking a heavy toll on food banks from D.C. to Baltimore, but something else is also happening: Federal workers who need help buying food for the first time are also volunteering.

Jody Tick, chief operating officer with the Capital Area Food Bank, said furloughed workers are spending their days helping out.

“We have people who volunteer with us, because they know that they’re going to a distribution the next day,” meaning they’d be going to pick up food to help feed their own families.

Meg Kimmel, executive vice president of programs and external affairs at the Maryland Food Bank, said she’s hearing the phrase “I never thought I’d be in this position” from many furloughed federal workers. But they’re also stepping up to help out.

“We had a distribution yesterday for federal employees, and everyone who was staffing a line was also a federal worker,” she said.

On an average day, the Maryland Food Bank distributes enough food to provide 102,000 meals, Kimmel said, and now they’re seeing “as much as a 25 percent spike for services” as a direct result of the shutdown.

During an average January, Tick said, the Capital Area Food Bank provides 3 million meals in the region.

“We’re seeing a 20 percent increase, or 600,000 additional meals. It’s costing us about $300,000,” said Tick.

Both women say the best way to help out is through cash donations. While they always encourage volunteering, during periods of critical need, every resource is poured into distributions, and there’s little time to train volunteers.

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