San Diego Food Bank staff and volunteers distributed seven tons of groceries and more than 6,000 diapers to hundreds of active-duty Coast Guard personnel and their families at a military site near National City on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, members of the United States Coast Guard missed their first paycheck due to the partial government shutdown. The Coast Guard, while technically a military branch, is funded through the Department of Homeland Security which is affected by the shutdown. Nationally, 42,000 active-duty Coast Guard personnel and 8,000 civilian employees are not receiving paychecks. Civilian employees have been unpaid since Dec. 21.
According to retired Rear Adm. Cari Thomas, CEO of Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, interviewed Tuesday on NPR’s Morning Edition, many enlisted Coast Guard personnel live below the poverty line. Those most vulnerable are junior enlisted Coast Guard personnel with young families, many of whom lack savings. Despite being unpaid, uniformed Coast Guard personnel deemed essential are continuing to work.
The food distribution was held at a location in the National City area. The Food Bank distributed 7 tons of food, which consisted of canned meat, canned vegetables, canned chili, canned soup, rice, cereal, oatmeal, jars of peanut butter, spaghetti sauce, pasta, and fresh produce including bags of apples, pears, oranges, potatoes and watermelons. The Food Bank also distributed 6,000 diapers to Coast Guard personnel with infants and toddlers. A month’s supply of diapers for one child can cost more than $80.
“There’s a tremendous amount of hardship that Coast Guard personnel and their families are facing right now as a result of the government shutdown. We are honored to be able to step up and provide emergency support to them in the form of food and diapers,” said Food Bank President & CEO, James Floros.
The San Diego Food Bank provides monthly food assistance to 39,000 low-income, active-duty military personnel and their dependents. To qualify for means-tested, government-provided food programs, a military family of four cannot have an annual household income of more than $37,650. Many low-income military families struggle with the region’s high cost of living and a spousal unemployment rate of 30%.
The Food Bank currently hosts 200 direct food distributions throughout San Diego County every month and supplies food to more than 500 county nonprofits with feeding programs.
Furloughed federal workers are encouraged to contact the Food Bank for emergency food distribution sites in their local area. Food Bank officials ask those seeking food assistance to visit the Food Bank’s website or call 2-1-1, the county’s social services hotline. A 2-1-1 operator will provide locations and food distribution times for emergency food sites closest to the caller’s area.