Sabrina Woods doesn't like asking for help, but today, she says she swallowed her pride and stood in line with hundreds of other federal workers to get a free meal at this emergency kitchen in Washington, D.C.
“I'm a stoic person who almost, almost never gets too high or too low or gets upset,” she says. “And I burst into tears on the phone with one of my creditors, [because] I had to beg for forgiveness for the first time in my life, and it's humiliating and demoralizing.”
Woods, who is an Air Force veteran, called it a struggle just to get to the kitchen, because the shutdown has not only taken a financial toll, but a mental one as well.
“You don't want to leave, because you don't want to dare spend a dollar you shouldn't be spending. You don't want to be seen spending a dollar you shouldn't be spending,” she says. “Plus, you go out amongst people who might not understand the situation, and they ask questions and it's uncomfortable and you feel ridiculous because you're a grown-up professional that can't make their own ends meet. Not because of anything you've done wrong, but it feels that way.”
Workers and volunteers with World Central Kitchen expect to serve free meals to thousands of federal workers this week.
The kitchen sits on Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and the Capitol. It’s organized by celebrity chef Jose Andres, who talked about his latest effort on Twitter.
“We believe no person should have to go through the pain of not knowing what to feed their children,” he wrote.
Andres’ organization has helped feed millions of people after earthquakes, hurricanes and wildfires. But this emergency kitchen is a first for the organization.
“This is new territory but also very similar, because you're dealing with folks who are struggling through a crisis,” says Nate Mook, with World Central Kitchen. “This may be a manmade disaster, but it's a disaster nonetheless, and a lot of people are hurting right now.”
The emergency kitchen will be open seven days a week until the shutdown ends.