Transportation Security Administration officers realized that many might need help, so earlier this month, they opened a food pantry and stocked it with donations from their own cabinets.
“The airport is a really tightknit community,” said Eric Chin, assistant federal security director for screening at Dulles Airport. “Everyone really pulls for each other. It’s like a family.”
TSA employees remembered that just over a year ago, during the government shutdown, many of the same workers affected by the outbreak donated food for a similar pantry to help TSA officers, who were working but not getting paid.
In this case, Chin said, things are tougher because many of the workers affected by the novel coronavirus no longer have jobs.
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which manages Dulles and Reagan National Airport, donated space for the pantry, which is set up in a room near baggage claim No. 6 on the arrivals level. It’s stocked with nonperishable foods, including canned goods, oatmeal, peanut butter and pasta. It’s staffed by a TSA officer and is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to noon and then from 1 to 5 p.m.
Hand sanitizer stations are set up inside and outside the entry to the pantry, and up to four people are permitted to enter at a time to ensure social distancing. Pantry visitors are encouraged to wear masks.
Chin said they’ve distributed food to several hundred workers who’ve been laid off or had their hours severely cut, and more people are still coming.
TSA officers provided much of what’s available, but donations of nonperishable food from the public also are welcome, Chin said. The other day, he said, a woman pulled up with 10 bags of groceries.
“It’s heartbreaking for us to see, so we’re doing whatever we can,” he said.