How the Government Shutdown is affecting SLU and wider Saint Louis community


The federal government’s partial shutdown became the longest in American history on Jan. 12. As of the time this article is published the shutdown will be entering its 33rd day, far surpassing the previous 21-day record set in 1995.

The Senate will vote on President Trump’s proposal to spend $5.7 billion on a border wall and on a competing Democratic bill that would fund the government through Feb. 8 without a wall. As Senate leaders plan these competing solutions, an estimated 800,000 federal workers enter their fourth week without pay.

The effects of the shutdown have been felt all across the nation; SLU and the wider St. Louis community being no exception.

In the early stages of the shutdown the safety of food was questioned as food and safety inspections had stopped on Dec. 22. Given the E. coli scare with romaine lettuce over Thanksgiving break last year, many felt uneasy about these developments.  

DineSLU’s marketing manager, Marianne Rogers, explained that SLU was quick to react after the romaine lettuce incident. “We pulled everything,” she explained, “not only from our dining hall, but from our partners and [other on-campus eateries] as well.” She went on to explain the importance of keeping the SLU community safe. “We have to be on top of these things,” she said.

It wasn’t until Jan. 15, that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration resumed some of these inspections. Given the shutdown, however, they have been forced to focus on “high-risk” foods such as leafy greens and other fresh-cut processing plants.

DineSLU works with Sodexo, a Fortune 500 company that has relationships with food purveyors all over the country. All of these food purveyors have their own methods for monitoring the safety of their product, as approved by Sodexo. This means that even if the FDA are not regulating all foods, the foods relevant to SLU are being monitored.

Keeping with this theme of  stepping up in place of a failing government, residents of St. Louis have been doing the same for the community. The St. Louis Diaper Bank hosted the St. Louis Shutdown Social and Resource Fair, an event intended to provide relief to any federal workers and their families. The event was held at Vincent de Paul Parish Hall on Sunday, Jan. 20.

Many of the federal employees expressed their appreciation for the charities that organized the event. “I really admire the support of the community,” one Coast Guard employee said. “That’s what has made this entire shutdown feasible and possible.”

The founder and executive director of the St. Louis Diaper Bank, Jessica Adams, got the idea for the fair after her company started receiving calls from federal employees seeking assistance. “It became pretty clear, pretty quickly, that families who needed diapers didn’t just need diapers,” she said. She had heard a story on NPR about a family in Maryland who did a potluck for furloughed workers and decided to try something similar. “I was like, alright, let’s do that. Let’s have a meal and then lets just get resources here so that people can go home with stuff that they need right now,” she said.

Adams didn’t start out with any grand ambitions, she simply describes herself as an optimist who wants good things to happen. “If it needs to happen and somebody needs to do it, might as well be me,” she said.

The whole event was organized in only four days, and other organizations are following with similar support plans.