Unpaid federal workers grateful for humiliating groceries in Brooklyn

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Federal employees on leave receive groceries and supplies from the Food Bank for New York City at a pop-up distribution event held Tuesday in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Photo Credit: Getty Images for Goop / Ilya S. Savenok

Amelia Williams has been with the Transportation Security Administration for less than a year – more than a month without pay. On Tuesday, she donned her TSA jacket and attended the Food Bank’s first ever pop-up for New York City at the Barclays Center, which was geared towards offering assistance to federal employees, many of whom have never been in this position.

“If I don’t have to spend money on food, it helps. I can spend money on my light bill, my gas bill, my rent,” said Williams, 27, who lives in Flatbush. “It’s my first time going through something like this – you humiliate yourself to go through something like this.”

Federal employees from all walks of life came to Williams on Tuesday and took sacks of shelf-stable goods such as cans of tomato soup and beans, as well as potatoes, onions, frozen egg whites, milk, grapes, and housewares such as soap or diapers home for those who needed them. Mikola De Roo, the food bank’s vice president of public affairs, said the group only started planning this event a few weeks after the closure began and is ready to help up to 800 people on Tuesday.

“We talked about it as soon as we determined the shutdown wasn’t going to end,” said De Roo. “These are mostly people who probably never expected to be in this position. They want to make sure they are treated with dignity, just as we would like to treat anyone who lives this day to day with as much dignity as we do possible. “

The pop-up event was prepared for up to 800 people.The pop-up event was prepared for up to 800 people. Photo credit: Linda Rosier

According to De Roo, Tuesday’s Brooklyn event was the first of several pop-ups, one of which was scheduled in an iconic location in each borough.

Judy Bryant, 58, an Internal Revenue Service auditor who lives in Bedford Stuyvesant, had tears in her eyes Tuesday as she picked up staples to take them home.

“I was hoping it didn’t have to come to that,” she said. “I understand what [Trump] wants, but he has to understand that we have to live. We have nothing to do with what’s going on. “

Bryant, who chose to use her maiden name because of her job, said she had worked for the agency for three decades. At first she wouldn’t come on Tuesday, but in the end she changed her mind.

“I can promise you this: when we get back to work, I’ll make a donation to this company. Now I know what it feels like,” she said. “At least I said I’ll have some food.”

Canarsie resident and TSA agent Marcia London, 35, said she is a single mother to two young girls, ages 4 and 10. She said she went to work and tried to do her duty, but it was difficult – especially given the noticeably reduced headcount.

“Morale has gone down … It will go on because now there are two payment periods and no check,” she said. “This feud between the President and Pelosi, I don’t see an end any time soon … We shouldn’t have to suffer because you can’t reach an agreement.”

London said she brought grapes for her daughter – a sweet treat she was happy to offer, adding that “every little bit helps”.

“I take care of them and still have to keep them in their daily activities. The monthly things for them don’t stop,” she said. “Ultimately, I try to stay positive for her.”

For Williams, although her job at TSA is relatively new, she would like to continue with the agency after the shutdown is finally over.

“It’s a great job and I love securing my country and helping passengers from all backgrounds,” she said.

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