What began as an ad hoc effort to help federal security screeners at the state’s largest airport by serving them free meals has turned into a more organized community-wide effort to help them get through the partial federal government shutdown that has them working without pay.
Unless the Trump administration and Congress reach a deal by Tuesday, the roughly 100 U.S. Transportation Security Administration screeners at Bill and Clinton National Airport/Adams Field will go without their second paycheck in what has become the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.
The effort to help them began with staff from the airport and Southwest and Delta airlines taking turns providing meals, including free breakfasts at an airport restaurant operated by HMSHost, the airport’s food and beverage concessionaire.
Soon anonymous donors were coming forward, including one who provided lunch from Newk’s delivered to the airport.
Congregation B’Nai Israel is collecting money for gift cards for screeners' families to stores such as Kroger, Walmart and Target.
Now, about 20 restaurants are organizing to provide daily breakfasts and lunches for TSA employees, according to Capi Peck, a Little Rock city director who is the chef/owner of Trio’s Restaurant.
“Little Rock, unlike a lot of communities , we’re not experiencing the long lines,” she said. “We have about 100 TSA employees at the Clinton National Airport. They are showing up, they are doing their jobs, people are grateful and thankful but we need to just do more than just thank them.”
Area restaurateurs and food professionals who pledged their assistance in conjunction with the Facebook post include Ben Brainard and Scott McGehee of Yellow Rocket Concepts (Big Orange, Local Lime, Heights Taco & Tamale, Lost Forty, etc.), pastry chef Zara Abbasi Wilkerson, Hayne Begley of Delta Biscuit Co., personal chef Margie Raimondo (formerly of Southern Table), Amy Kelley Bell of South on Main, Amanda Leigh Ivy of Sauce(d) and Donnie Ferneau Jr. of Cathead’s Diner.
Community leaders and Peck’s Facebook friends have been pledging financial support and hands-on help.
Meanwhile, various TV stations have been reporting that at least one restaurants and one restaurant chain have already stepped up:
Taziki’s restaurants in Arkansas are offering discounts — 25 percent to federal employees and immediate family who are furloughed or working without pay.
And Hawgz Blues Cafe on Park HIll fed federal government employees for free last Sunday and will again this Sunday if the shutdown continues.