PLANO, Texas — Minnie's Food Pantry has served tens of thousands of people, providing free food from its Plano location to families in need all across north Texas. Monday those families included workers affected by the federal government shutdown entering day 31.
"Are you a government worker? It's a pleasure to serve you today," said Minnie's Food Pantry founder Cheryl Jackson as dozens arrived at the pantry Monday morning. The pantry is normally closed on Mondays so that volunteers can restock the shelves for the rest of the week. Monday morning Cheryl Jackson opened the doors to federal government employees affected by the shutdown. All she asked was that they provide proof of employment which was often one of the $0 dollar paychecks the employees began receiving more than a week ago.
And because many of those who shows up for help had never been to a pantry or asked for help before, they admitted being too embarrassed to talk on camera or hesitant to risk jeopardizing the job they hope to return to.
"And so these people are voiceless, they are foodless, and they are scared," Jackson said.
But then we met Gail Plunkett, an EPA employee who arrived at the pantry with her grandchildren.
"I get embarrassed," she admitted. "But they need food and stuff," she said of her grandkids Chloe and Ezra.
She was given boxes and bags full of bread, meat, fruits and vegetables and more. The children were given gift bags of their own with kid-friendly food and notes of encouragement. And then volunteers helped Gail Plunkett load the several days worth of grocers into her car for the drive back to Mesquite.
"It's just a true blessing that I received today," she said. "But they need to come to some type of agreement," she said of politicians in Washington, D.C. Because we're the ones that are really struggling. Not that wall, not the people trying to come in. It just hurts on everybody's end. It don't matter what color you are."
In line for help we also found an IRS auditor frustrated with the shutdown too.
"So that's ridiculous," Marcia Bailey-Cantrelle said. "Thank God that we're still alive. But we do need our paycheck."
And Minnie's Food Pantry volunteer Sherry Brockman agreed to talk about her unique situation. She has been a pantry volunteer for years, helping other people in need. But she is also an "essential" IRS employee required to report to work even though she is not getting paid.
"This is not good," Brockman said of the lingering shutdown. "I don't think we understand the real impact yet either. I just hope that everybody gets back and gets paid."
"It's not about a party. It's about a person. It's about a baby who I looked and held whose mother was crying and said how to I feed her," Cheryl Jackson said. "That's what this moment is about."
A moment with no end or solution in sight.
Minnie's Food Pantry served 78 government employees and their extended families totaling more than 230 people on Monday. The pantry says government workers can return to the pantry once a week for free food as long as the shutdown continues.