Shutdown hits home: Local TSA agents get food donations

Daniel Martin drops off a box of donated food items to his car (Southside Daily photo/ Julia Marsigliano)
Daniel Martin drops off a box of donated food items to his car (Southside Daily photo/ Julia Marsigliano)

The partial government shutdown has affected thousands of workers nationwide causing some workers to apply for unemployment, hold yard sales or dip into their savings.

And some employees, such as TSA agents at Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport, continue to show up to work everyday—without pay.

On Thursday morning, TSA agents picked up boxes of food donated by the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank during the afternoon shift change.

“We expect this government shutdown to be a slow hunger crisis,” said Karen Joyner, the foodbank’s CEO.

At 10:30 a.m. volunteers set up dozen of boxes of food items, which lined the banquet room of the airport, from prepared cardboard boxes donated by Kroger filled with items like oatmeal, canned tuna and peanut butter, to frozen whole chickens, packages of bacon, milk, carrots, romaine lettuce, cereal and other items.

Joyner said Scott Robinson, president of the local 448 chapter of the American Federation of Government Employees, reached out to her Monday asking to donate food at the airport because some people are too proud to go to the foodbank.

“Workers are living paycheck to paycheck or living off savings,” said Robinson, a TSA agent at Norfolk International Airport..

One of those workers is Daniel Martin, a Navy veteran, who is a TSA agent at the airport.

“My wife is really stressed out because of the bills,” he said.

Martin supports his wife and four teenagers in Gloucester and has used up all of his savings. He said his family is helping out and recently got a loan from Navy Federal Credit Union.

“I think what’s going on up there is pretty much a pissing contest,” Martin said in regards to the government shutdown. “It pisses me off a lot.”

He picked up a box filled with donated food items and dropped them off in his car before starting his shift.

Karen Herod, a single mother of two teens from Hampton, who has a TSA agent for 12 years.

“They’re doing okay,” Herod said. “I think it provides a little level of uneasiness for them as well, not knowing directly, they are old enough to understand financially what exactly is going on.”

Herod is the president of the Bethel High School PTSA and a member of the AFGE union. She said she will pick up some food before she leaves. Until then, she watched her co-worker, Patrice Daniels’ 4-year-old son, Hakem.

“I had to bring him because I’m not going to spend any additional money on childcare for a day when I’m not working, I’ll just bring him with me because I have to be so mindful of how I spend my money,” said Daniels, who has worked as a TSA agent for nearly 11 years. “Every dollar has to be thought about and prioritized as far as what is important and what can wait.”

A member of the AFGE union herself, she helped Robinson work with the foodbank to provide donations to her colleagues.

“It just seems a little unfair that I’m expected to continue to work but no one can tell me when am I going to get my paycheck to take care of my family,” she said in regards to the shutdown.

The AFAE Local 448 currently manages seven airports across Virginia and plans to provide more food donations to other airports next week.

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed a bill providing backpay to government employees affected by the shutdown.

“This is no substitute for a pay check, but I hope that this effort helps give some assurances to federal employees who just want to do their jobs and earn their pay,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, D-VA.

Want to help? Donate dried good items, like pasta, chunky soups and other items people might want during the winter months to the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank.

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.