Pop-up food bank serves furloughed federal employees

HOUSTON (FOX 26) — Zena Perryman would rather be at work at NASA, but instead she's getting as much food as she can for the family table.

"I've got five people: a twelve-year-old, two disabled people, a daughter who just got out of the hospital and has to go back for surgery next week," said Perryman. "So I've got to balance out this the best way I can."

The best way she and many other furloughed federal employees can achieve that balance is to take advantage of food banks like the one set up outside the Green House International Church. It is just for federal employees affected by the partial government shutdown.

"That's an injustice," said Pastor E.A. Deckard. "Just imagine you were working eight hours a day and you have bills. You have a job but no check. That's an injustice." 

The food bank is a group effort by the City of Houston and some agencies all operating under the charity called Helping Hands to the Community. The charity has seen an increase in the number of families applying for aid.

"We have 1700 families that have registered for services," said Renea Gray, who explained that all of them are families of federal employees. That's in just two days.

Besides getting food, employees could get fast tracked to the food stamp program before it shuts down due to lack of funding. They could also get letters from Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee's office to help them appeal to creditors.

Bear in mind, these are working people. TSA agents were coming in uniform during their lunch breaks to get food. They are people who work for us, people like Perryman who are now teetering on the brink of financial and emotional collapse through no fault of their own.

"You feel like it is going to be OK at some point," said Perryman as her voice cracked with emotion. "I guess you try to feel hopeful, but true enough this needs to end." 

The food bank will return on Wednesday if needed. The effort helped roughly 400 families on Thursday.