On the 26th day of the longest government shutdown in United States history, hundreds of people lined up for free meals from chef José Andrés.
The line to get into Andrés's "emergency kitchen" on its first day open stretched around the building on Wednesday. World Central Kitchen is serving free meals to federal workers who are not being paid.
Air Force veteran and furloughed federal employee Serena Woods said she was grateful for the meal but embarrassed.
"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 debilitating and demoralizing," she said.
"Food is always comforting," another federal worker said.
She said she had worked for the federal government for more than a decade but was seeking work elsewhere.
"People have to get paid. People have to live," she said.
World Central Kitchen, at 701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, near the United States Navy Memorial, is set to be open every day from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. It's serving a "rotating menu of hot meals, sandwiches and salads," a statement from the nonprofit said.
Andrés, who has fed people around in the world in the wake of disasters, said he empathized with federal workers.
"We believe that no person should have to go through the pain of not knowing what to feed their children," he said in a video filmed in Puerto Rico and posted to Twitter on Monday.
A federal employee who has worked for the government for three decades said she was frustrated by the need for Andrés's help.
"We shouldn't have to have this in America," she said.