On Monday, the only Haitian restaurant at Miami International Airport began offering free lunch and dinner to federal security screeners, customs inspectors and other employees who have been working without pay since before Christmas.

The shutdown charity special by Chef Créole ended up so popular that the food had to be hauled away by hand trucks to federal workers who couldn’t leave their posts but were eager for a free meal.

“You say to yourself: ‘What can I do to help,?” owner Wilkinson Sejour said as workers wearing Customs badges and TSA jackets lined up behind him to choose between the evening offerings of fish or pork. “I guess a sandwich would help.”

Sejour estimated he gave away nearly 350 free meals by 7 p.m. on Monday. Many workers couldn’t get away for a meal, so uniformed employees showed up throughout the evening with lists from colleagues. One worker from the Transportation Security Administration, who declined to give his name, had a yellow sticky note that read: 16 pork, 4 fish. “One pork without onions?” the man asked. “That’s for me.”

There have been scattered efforts in Miami to ease the burdens of local federal workers who have been working without pay since late last year.

Over the weekend, Miami-Dade’s Parks Department waived admission at some locations for federal workers impacted by the shutdown and their guests. Parks spokeswoman Victoria Galan said nearly 80 tickets were given away at the county’s Zoo Miami alone. Museums in Miami have similar offers. Miami-Dade’s school system is encouraging families with federal workers not receiving pay to take advantage of free lunches for their children. Continue reading

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