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Extraordinary Need. Extraordinary Action.

TSA Pop-up Pantry

This week, we highlight the Second Harvest Food Bank team and their extraordinary efforts to meet an extraordinary need created by the recent government shutdown.

Second Harvest Food Bank is an adaptive organization and always ready to meet our community’s needs, whether it is a man-made or natural disaster. When the shutdown went into effect, we knew that we were going to be called to serve a new group of people whose lives were about to be thrown into a financial tailspin – furloughed government workers.

Our team met immediately and decided on an action plan. Part of the team called every government agency with furloughed workers to ask if they needed our help. Others quickly assessed our resources to see what would be required in the way of food, time and talent.  We also connected with food donors to access additional resources, activated volunteers, and engaged partners to assure their distribution capacity in the face of the coming increased need.

In response to our outreach to government agencies, the TSA polled their workers to see if they needed help. Expecting to see about 10% to 20% responding “yes,” they were surprised by 90% saying they could use our help to tide them over while they worked without pay.

We opened the TSA pantry on Monday, January 21st from 9:00 am to 9:30 pm in a conference room in Terminal A of the John Wayne Airport. We remained open until late afternoon Friday, February 1st, when TSA managers determined that our help was no longer needed.

Our Impact

In the nine days that we were open we:

  • Had 840 visits
  • Served 1,832 adults, 692 children, and 192 seniors
  • Provided a total of 20,711 pounds of food, or the equivalent of 17,259 meals

TSA agents were extremely grateful for our help and many shared their stories. Here are just a few:

A young government employee and his wife, who is on maternity leave at part-time pay, have twin 4 month-old babies – a boy and a girl. He was barely able to make ends meet before the shutdown, but with the shutdown he was very worried about feeding his family and paying the bills.The food he got from the Second Harvest pantry was a huge help.

A grandmother struggles to support her family in normal times. Recently, her daughter and three grandchildren moved into her house after her daughter lost her job. They’d been trying keep their worries about covering all their expenses from the children, but really panicked when the grandmother’s TSA paycheck stopped. They were extremely grateful because it meant they didn’t have to worry about putting food on the table, or burden the children with worrying about if they’d have enough to eat.

One TSA agent told us that the food was going to be a lifesaver for his family because his wife was not going to be receiving her paychecks either – she’s a Border Patrol Agent.

That’s just a small sampling situations that cause you to suddenly face the prospect of no food on your table.

Some of those we help are without resources for a short time, like the TSA workers. Others need our help to bridge the gap so they don’t tailspin into a downward spiral that can lead to poverty or homelessness. Others are in such dire straits that they would likely starve without our help. Whatever the circumstances, Second Harvest stands ready to offer a hand up to those in need. By feeding the poor, the hungry, and the food insecure, we take hunger off the table and give people the time and strength to find a job, work, or go to school and improve their lives.


Here are some links to news stories about the TSA pantry:

CBS 2 ran a story by reporter Michele Gile on January 22.

KNX Radio interviewed Dave Coffaro on January 22.

OC Register’s Theresa Walker wrote a profile that ran on January 31.

The Daily Pilot ran a front page story on January 30.

KCRW reported on the pantry in a segment that ran at least three time on February 1.


We will leave you with this:

A TSA agent who came regularly for food for his family visited one last time on Friday. As he left he said, “You all have restored my faith in humanity.” 

If you would like to partner with us to help those in need create a better future for themselves and their families, you can click here to donate and click here to volunteer.