As Shutdown Hits Coast Guard Workers, Bay Area Food Banks Step in to Help

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U.S. Coast Guard petty officer Ervin Mantilla of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hawksbill looks out a window as he investigates a fishing vessel while on patrol off the coast of San Francisco on March 7, 2013. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Two Bay Area food banks are working to help some of the thousands of federal employees who are not receiving paychecks because of the ongoing partial government shutdown.

The San Francisco-Marin Food Bank is preparing to provide aid to dozens of U.S. Coast Guard workers and their families in Novato's Hamilton neighborhood, totaling about 400 people, said food bank spokesman Mark Seelig.

The food bank plans on Saturday to deliver produce and help enroll Coast Guard families into Cal Fresh, which provides monthly food benefits to low-income residents.

"There is some concern that they weren't able to feed their families," Seelig said. "They have no idea how long this is going to last."

The nation's top Coast Guard official announced Tuesday that members of the guard will not be receiving their regularly scheduled mid-month paycheck.

In a letter addressed to the Coast Guard's 42,000 members, Admiral Karl Schultz said this marks the first time to his knowledge that servicemembers in a U.S. armed force aren't being paid due to a government shutdown.

The food bank is also bracing for more requests for help from other workers if the shutdown continues.

"There have been a lot of phone calls, a lot of meetings about ... how we're going to absorb more people," Seelig said.

Additionally, the Second Harvest Food Bank — which serves Santa Clara and San Mateo counties — is starting a campaign to inform furloughed government workers living there that help is available.

"We want federal workers to know they can receive groceries from us," said Leslie Bacho, the food bank's CEO. "For a lot of these workers, they may not have had to ask for assistance before. We want them to understand that it's a very easy process."

Bacho said the food bank has been reaching out to elected officials, unions that represent the furloughed workers and other community groups to help get the word out.

"In this expensive area that we live in, for many people, they do not have much cushion," Bacho said. "For some of these federal workers, it is going to become a crisis situation for them when they don't receive their paycheck."

She added: "The government shutdown affects our entire community."