BRISTOL, R.I. — Spouses of U.S. Coast Guard members said they appreciated a university in Rhode Island hosting a free dinner for their families Tuesday, as they tightened their budgets due to the partial federal government shutdown.

Roger Williams University invited active-duty Coast Guard members in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts and their families to the Bristol campus Tuesday night. About 75 people attended.

"It means a lot to us to be able to come here. Banding together is important," said Rachel Malcom, 32, whose husband serves in the Coast Guard in Rhode Island. They went to the dinner with three of their four young children.

Malcom and other Coast Guard spouses said they're choosing less expensive items at the grocery store, going fewer places to save on gasoline and looking for other ways to cut costs.

"I'm really scaling back on everything at this point," said Mariah Battermann, whose husband serves in the Coast Guard in Rhode Island. They went to the dinner with their two children.

U.S. Coast Guard spouse Mariah Battermann, left, fills her plate, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019, at Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I. (Jennifer McDermott/AP)
U.S. Coast Guard spouse Mariah Battermann, left, fills her plate, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019, at Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I. (Jennifer McDermott/AP)

Several Coast Guard members said they couldn't speak publicly about the shutdown. The Coast Guard, part of the Department of Homeland Security, isn't funded during the shutdown. Other military services are receiving funding through the Defense Department.

President Donald Trump has said he's willing to keep the government closed to get funding to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

John King, vice president of student life at Roger Williams University, said the Coast Guard patrols the local waters that students and nearby residents swim and sail in.

"They're always there for us. We wanted to do a small act of kindness and gratitude for them," he said.

The Coast Guard has about 330 people in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts, including a team in Bristol that maintains aids to navigation.

U.S. Coast Guard families enjoy dinner, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019, at Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I. (Jennifer McDermott/AP)
U.S. Coast Guard families enjoy dinner, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019, at Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I. (Jennifer McDermott/AP)