While airlines grapple with the loss of travelers amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, many have taken the step of donating unused meals to out-of-work employees in other struggling industries.

Most recently, American Airlines announced that it donated 25,000 meals with food that would have been used on board and in lounges to community kitchens. The donation was in partnership with the LEE Initiative, an organization dedicated to providing relief through feeding restaurant workers left unemployed by the pandemic.

“Communities across the country have seen a rise in need for meals, and we had a surplus of food due to the decreased demands for air travel,” Ron DeFeo, senior vice president of global engagement, said in a statement. “The LEE Initiative is a great example of working within communities and nonprofits in a unique way to help provide what they need in an unprecedented time.”

To date, American said it has donated more than 200,000 pounds of food mostly diverted from its in-flight offerings to food banks, hospitals and nonprofit organizations in cities such as Chicago, Washington, Phoenix and Dallas.

“It’s rewarding to see companies like American Airlines care for communities by providing 25,000 meals to our community kitchens in Chicago and Washington, D.C.,” chef Edward Lee, founder and director of programming at the LEE Initiative, said in a statement. “I’m truly thankful that the restaurant industry is not being forgotten at a time when so many people across the country are experiencing hardships.”

Earlier this month, Delta announced that it was donating 200,000 pounds of food that would have gone unused to hospitals and other front-line organizations dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

Through Feeding America, a nonprofit network supporting food banks across the country, Delta has provided aid to resource and crisis centers in states such as Georgia and Missouri.

Gate Gourmet at Dulles International Airport caters 18,000 meals for passengers on 275 flights daily. That number can reach 25,000 meals in high season. (The Washington Post)

Southwest Airlines recently made a donation of $400,000 worth of snacks and other in-flight provisions to 15 food banks in the Feeding America network. The donations are planned to assist the food pantries, homeless shelters, senior centers and children’s meal programs in most need.

“Today and every day, we believe a strong community is more than a place, it’s at the heart of what brings us together,” Laurie Barnett, managing director of communications and outreach, said in a statement. “We remain steadfast in our commitment to give back to the communities we serve, especially in a time of need. These items will help make hunger less of a reality for struggling families across the country.”

United Airlines converted one of its cargo facilities at George Bush Intercontinental Airport into a food distribution center with the aim of helping out the Houston Food Bank. The airline has since donated more than 160,000 pounds of food to hospitals and food banks, and employees have volunteered nearly 5,000 hours to aid in food distribution efforts.

“We take great pride in having employees throughout the United network who are always looking for ways to make every action count, even in these extremely trying times,” Sharon Grant, vice president of global community engagement, said in a statement. “This is a great example of the power in working together with our nonprofit partners on addressing their challenges and creating unique solutions to ensure the community is served.”

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