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Foodbank begins distributing free food to federal workers in Santa Barbara County

Day 21 of the government shutdown means some 800,000 federal employees will miss their first paycheck since the stalemate began.

Many are struggling to pay the bills and put food on the table.

The Santa Barbara County Foodbank is giving free food to those who are affected, but even the Foodbank will start to take a hit if the government doesn’t reopen soon.

Clark Parscal retired just two days before the government shutdown after working for 22 years as a Lompoc Penitentiary correctional officer.

He was excited to retire but closed federal offices are delaying his retirement benefits.

“Yeah, I was going to use that to survive, so now I don’t know what I am going to do, just try and make it day to day,” Parscal said.

The American Federation of Government Employees Local 4397 is the union representing more than 400 workers at the Lompoc Penitentiary.

Union leaders say morale in the prison is low.

“We got single fathers, single mothers, we got married couples and neither are getting paychecks,” said Justin Bender, Executive Vice President of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 4397. “It’s a no-win situation really.”

Union members say they’re grateful for the community support, especially free food provided by Wild West Pizza and Grill in Lompoc and the Santa Barbara County Foodbank.

The Foodbank gave free food to almost 40 employees on Friday.

Paul Wilkins, director of operations, says he expects to help even more as the shutdown continues.

“When they start to realize that they don’t have the money to be able to afford all the expenses that they need, quite commonly the first thing to be cut is food expenses,” Wilkins said. “We are keenly aware of that situation with our normal clients that we serve and we are prepared to make sure that we can fill the void that’s left when they have to make those decisions.”

Volunteers prepared bags of fresh food and dry products, but all that could be limited if the shutdown extends into February.

“USDA workers are not working, they are not going out and sourcing and procuring the food inventory needed to regularly stock this inventory,” Wilkins said.

Food banks like Santa Barbara County’s could face major food shortages.

Wilkins said they could lose about one-third of their inventory, equivalent to about three million pounds of food per year.

Many federal employees are hoping for an end to all of this.

“If you want to fight about a wall then go ahead, but why are you putting federal employees, you are using them as pawns,” said Parscal. “This is dumb.”

“We just want our paychecks, that’s all,” Bender said. “Political parties aside, my political party is my staff. I want them to get a paycheck at the end of the day.”

The Santa Barbara County Foodbank will be distributing free food for federal workers January 16 and 18 from 1-2:30 p.m. in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara.

Megan Healy

Megan Healy

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