An estimated 800,000 government workers – many in the Washington, DC, area – are edging up on a month without pay since the federal government partially shutdown 25 days ago. The missing pay is prompting some to cinch their purse strings and go without luxuries, while others are struggling to cover the cost of basic necessities, like food.
In response, some industry players are offering free and reduced food and beverages to federal employees in a bid to ease workers’ discomfort, and in exchange likely are generating goodwill in the community and among existing and potential future consumers.
Among those offering a helping hand to furloughed employees is Kraft Heinz, which is opening a pop-up store in Washington, DC, and offering federal workers holding their government IDs a “bag full of Kraft products for their families,” including Kraft Mac & Cheese, Kraft Natural Cheese, Kraft Singles and more.
“During the government shutdown, parents should not have to worry about putting dinner on the table because they aren’t receiving a paycheck,” Sergio Eleuterio, head of marketing at Kraft, said in a release. “Kraft stands for families and we want to support the families who have built our brands. This store is one way we can help those affected get the grocery staples they need.”
In return, Kraft is asking recipients to “pay it forward by donating to their charity of choice or someone in need once they are able to do so.”
Whole Foods Market also helped feed federal employees as well as their families, friends and neighbors by hosting free a spaghetti dinner at select stores on Jan. 15 that was open to the entire DC community.
Celebrity Chef Jose Andres of the ThinkFoodGroup also announced on Twitter at the start of the shutdown that he is giving free sandwiches “to the poor men and women of the federal government, republicans and democrats, at every restaurant of mine in DC for lunch until they get paid again.”
Select Giant grocery stores around the Washington, DC, area also are hosting pop-up markets for government employees and contractors affected by the furlough to receive free food from the Capital Area Food Bank. The food bank will operate the free grocery distribution weekly through the end of the shutdown.
Many other restaurants, bars and non-profits also offered free and reduced-price food for those impact by the partial shutdown.
Others seeking to give should consider limits placed on what federal employees can accept. Ethics rules limit the value of gifts that federal workers can accept to $20 or less at a time and under $50 from a single entity over the course of a calendar year. However, there is an exception that allows for discounts offered to the public and for all government employees, which covers most of the current offers.
Efforts like these not only help those in need but appeal to the increasing number conscientious consumers who like to support brands or businesses that they perceive as ‘doing good.’ They can also generate positive earned media that has a far larger reach than those who take the businesses up on their offers.