South Philly emergency market sees long line of federal workers

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philabundance wasn't sure what the response was going to be to their emergency food market, but the line started even before opening Wednesday morning.

Vladimir Valentin was among the federal employees who showed up.

"I don't want my pride getting in the way of helping the kids," Valentin said.

So Valentin stood with his three-month-old baby. The employee at the U.S. Attorney's Office joined the long line of federal workers at Front and Tasker streets under I-95 in South Philadelphia.

"I figured a government job, that's a good job, you're in and you're good, you're permanent. But we're having a job and not getting paid for it," Linda Cheeseman of North Philadelphia said.

"It's been pretty rough with a couple of older teenagers at home. And the only income in the house is from two government employees," Scott Friedman of Northeast Philadelphia said.

There was fresh fruit, vegetables, cereal, soup, and more. Each person could take home 15 pounds of food.

For the first time in its 35-year history, Philabundance enacted its emergency response plan in Philadelphia, to quickly distribute food to federal workers facing hunger because of the partial government shutdown.

Some in line voiced concern that they were taking away food from others, but were reassured that is not the case.

"We've come together to find additional food and additional funding to help the government workers. So they are not taking food away from those who face hunger on a regular basis," Stef Arck-Baynes of Philabundance said.

The market is open Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. for government workers with ID; it's a collaboration that includes Campbell Soup Company.

"These federal employees are us. They are our community, our family, our neighbors," Kim Fortunato of Campbell Soup Co. said.

45,000 people in this area are impacted by the shutdown, according to Philabundance, and may now be struggling to feed their families.

"Back in the day, government jobs were everything, and now, well look around. We never thought we would have to be in line," Friedman said.

The market will be open every Wednesday until two weeks after the end of the shutdown.

Meanwhile, there have been higher than normal TSA sick calls but security screening is still operating more or less normally at Philadelphia International Airport.
So far they haven't had to close any checkpoints yet like at some other airports.

The airport has now opened a food pantry. All federal employees with ID can use it, not just airport workers.

Individuals and companies like the Fruit Guys and Brown Family ShopRite have been dropping off donations since last week. The response has been overwhelming, but it's not enough.

Local 98 is also making donations to TSA workers, including food trucks to serve hot meals. The trucks will also be back Friday.

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