food banks

Airport Garden Helps Feed its Community

Here’s a great story that wonderfully illustrates and reminds us that airports aren’t just places to fly in and out from.

Each airport also plays many roles in the local community.

Some airports collect loose change from travelers and send it along to local charities. Others organize programs that collect perfectly good unsold packaged food items from airport vendors and pass them along to local food banks.

And since 1997 Canada’s Winnipeg Richardson International Airport (YWG) has been hosting a Harvest Garden that grows thousands of pounds of vegetables each year for local food banks.

And the airport just shared that last week more than 5,000 pounds of potatoes, beets, carrots, and onions were pulled from the airport’s Harvest Garden and donated to Harvest Manitoba. The non-profit sends the vegetables out to 325 food banks and agencies in the province.

Pretty impressive, right?

More impressive, since the Harvest Garden started in 1997, the airport has donated 72,270 pounds of vegetables. That’s enough food to help provide a meal to 100,000 families in need.

According to the Winnipeg Airports Authority, which operates YWG, over the past 25 years, the airport garden has grown from a few rows in size to 4,000 square feet. And employees from nearly every department across the organization pitch in each summer to help seed, weed, and harvest the garden.

Have a great community story to share about your airport? Let us know.

Airports help out local food banks

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)