Martha's Table Barack Obama visit
Martha's Table, a prominent nonprofit that has attracted a variety of notable visitors over the years, is going through a leadership change. Credit: Courtesy of Martha's Table

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President Barack Obama was volunteer number 25 for less than an hour today at Martha’s Table, a D.C. nonprofit that provides services each day to about 1,100 people in poverty.

The president didn’t give Martha’s Table much warning of his visit, with someone from the White House calling the organization today to say Obama would be stopping by with his motorcade early in the afternoon to volunteer prepping food at the organization’s 14 Street NW headquarters, according to Kim Lyons, assistant director of communications at Martha’s Table.

Obama opted to visit Martha’s Table to work alongside and talk with some furloughed federal workers, who were volunteering there. Some young children from Sidwell Friends School—the private school the president’s daughters attend—were also volunteering (school was closed for fall break).

“This whole shutdown has been completely unnecessary,” Obama said, according to a White House press pool report on the event. “This afternoon I am going to once again urge [Congress] to open the government and urge them to make sure that the United States government is paying its bills.”

So the visit served as a photo-op for the president in his efforts to end the shutdown, which has put hundreds of thousands of employees out of work and caused food banks and nonprofits around the country to see an uptick in people seeking services.

Lyons says Martha’s Table hasn’t seen an increase in people looking for assistance yet, but expects to if the shutdown creeps to the end of the month. The organization has, however, seen a rise in volunteers, as furloughed workers look to fill their time.

“We’re so appreciate of the support of the president and all of the other government workers that are showing their support around this time,” Lyons says. “When the shutdown happened, we starting seeing a boost in clothing and food donation.”

While he was there, the president did do some actual food prep. Among the presidential duties: preparing yogurt parfaits and making bologna  and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

“Can I just say just in the few moments I’ve been here I’m feeling a little sticky. I think I got some PBJ on my fingers,” Obama said, according to the pool report.

The president also struggled with his Ziploc bag task.

“The Ziplock’s not zipping,” he said at one point, joking that zipping the bags is tougher than it looks when wearing gloves.

The hundred or so meals that Obama and the other volunteers prepped today will be served out of a truck to people in need at three different locations tonight in Northwest D.C.

Photo courtesy of Martha’s Table