A line of cars stretched across a parking lot beneath a gray sky Friday in Atlanta as employees from the Transportation Security Administration and Customs and Border Protection and their families waited for groceries from the Atlanta Community Food Bank and Antioch Baptist Church North.
“I feel pain,” said Robert Timmons, a retired member of the US armed forces who said he’s been working for the TSA for 16 years.
“And I feel a little remorseful, because our elected officials, who we trust to take care of business, (are) not taking care of business. And they put the suffering on the people who are working to make sure that the mission that we have is carried out.”
Timmons said he’s doing OK for now, thanks to his status as retired military. But the partial government shutdown – now in its 28th day as President Donald Trump and Congress remain at an impasse over a border wall – is hard on many of his colleagues who struggling without a paycheck.
“I’m an older guy,” he said. “A lot of the younger people who have not had the chance to set up their financial situation, they are struggling. People have children. Some families, they have two people working for the government and I feel awful.”
The food bank expected to serve more than 1,000 families of federal workers Friday, according to CEO Kyle Waide. Similar efforts have popped up all over the country, and even some FBI field offices have begun opening food banks to support agents and staff who aren’t getting paid.
“These are folks who are working, protecting all of us, but right now they’re working without a paycheck,” Waide told CNN. “They have needs. Their families need food. We’re trying to provide as much of that as we can.”
The Atlanta Community Food Bank serves more than 61 million meals every year, so it’s able to meet the needs of about 16,000 federal workers in metro Atlanta who are furloughed or working without pay, Waide said.
But it’s unclear how long the food bank will be able to do so, especially with no end to the shutdown expected soon.
“We’re really in uncharted territory,” Waide said.
The demand is growing – fast – and it’s clearly visible on the nonprofit’s social media feeds and in the its web traffic analytics. Search terms about finding a place to get food are up more than 300% in the past several days, Waide said, compared with the same period last year.
The demand also is apparent in the long line of cars, which stretched down the block and took anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to get through.
Among those waiting was Arrisia Sims, an agricultural specialist for the CBP, and her son in the back seat.
The food was going to help, Sims said, “for right now.”
“Hopefully, I can stretch it for a while,” she added. “But my hope is that this just all comes to an end soon.”
She’s doing all right, Sims said, but she showed up to make sure she had enough food and supplies for her son.
“I don’t know who to blame,” Sims said when asked about the standoff between Trump and congressional Democrats.
“We can point fingers at everybody, but the realization is we just don’t know who, and I’m just hoping that the powers that be … that something moves them to push forward to make sure that all of these people that are out here today receive paychecks,” she said.
CNN’s Tristan Smith contributed to this report.