The upside of modern airports offering a wide variety of fast food outlets, grab ‘n’ go shops and table service restaurants with gourmet meals is that passengers have lots of options when they’re hungry.
The downside: A lot of unsold food can go to waste.
The silver lining: In many cities there are programs that make it easy to get unsold packaged and prepared food from airports to local food banks and other hunger relief programs.
Denver International is the latest airport to put a food donation program in place.
In a program officially launched this week, participating airport restaurants and food vendors fill coolers on loan from United Airlines with leftover prepared entrees, side dishes, prepackaged salads and sandwiches, sealed beverages, condiment packets, canned goods and other items.
A local organization, Metro Caring, then picks up the food and distributes it to hungry families and individuals in town.
During a two-month pilot phase of the program at DIA, 11 airport concessions donated about 3,500 pounds of unused food to the program.
Other airports with food donation programs include Los Angeles International Airport, which has its LAX Harvest Food Donation program, Portland International, which has donated 90 tons of food (over 120,000 meals) since February 2013 through its partnership with Urban Gleaners, the Port of Portland reports, and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which has donated 155,000 pounds of food to a local since starting a program in 2006.
Many national airport concession operators donate to local food banks at well. HMSHost, for example, gives excess food products to local banks in 55 airports, including Tampa International.
(My story about food donation programs at airports first appeared on USA TODAY)