State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

The State House Sound Bites Podcast is now called State of the State and is a part of PA Post, a digital-first, citizen-focused news organization to hold Pennsylvania’s government accountable to its citizens.

Food bank: shutdown is hitting prison workers especially hard

Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jan 24, 2019 10:41 PM

The federal correctional institution in Schuylkill County. It is one of nine federal facilities in Pennsylvania. (Photo by AP)


(Harrisburg) -- The federal government shutdown keeps going. And in central Pennsylvania, the regional food bank is continuing to distribute extra goods to furloughed workers.

Two weeks into the effort, they are finding one group is particularly hard-hit: prison workers.

Pennsylvania is home to nine federal prisons, and a lot of the guards and other staff are working without pay.

"Those are really large workforces," Central Pennsylvania Food Bank director Joe Arthur said. "And then there's the pay scale--contrary to public belief, a lot of federal workers don't make a lot of money."

Arthur said when his team was making a plan to give furloughed workers extra services, they knew they'd need a different approach for people who work in prisons.

For one thing, they're based pretty far away from the food bank's hubs in Harrisburg and Williamsport.

"Serving them at the prison makes it a little bit easier for them," Arthur said. "And they can save gas money, which is an issue."

Arthur said on top of handing out food to the furloughed three nights a week from their warehouses, they've made several trips to bring food to the two federal prisons in their 27-county zone.

"I think that comes out to 30, 40 thousand pounds of food. But most people can't really relate to that--that's a tractor trailer load," he said.

All told, the food bank has fed around 800 people in the two weeks it's provided extra furlough service, and Arthur estimates 600 of those people have jobs at prisons.

He expects demand to get even higher next week if the shutdown continues and workers miss another paycheck.

Published in News, State House Sound Bites

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