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“Communities across the country have seen a rise in need for meals, and we had a surplus of food..."

By Alison Fox
April 28, 2020
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American Airlines employees with packages
Credit: American Airlines

In what has become a common effort among airlines, American has donated 25,000 meals through a partnership with local restaurants in Chicago and Washington, D.C.

The airline teamed up with the LEE Initiative’s Restaurant Workers Relief Program to donate the meals that would have been served inflight. The LEE Initiative has turned local restaurants in cities across the country into relief centers offering to-go meals and other supplies for those in the restaurant industry and are currently out of work.

“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, the senior vice president of global engagement for American Airlines, said in a statement provided to Travel + Leisure. “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.”

American Airlines employees
Credit: American Airlines
American Airlines employees load boxes into a truck
Credit: American Airlines

Like many airlines grappling with the coronavirus pandemic, American has looked for ways to distribute unused food. So far, the airline has given out more than 200,000 pounds of food to food banks, hospitals, and nonprofits, mostly from unused in-flight offerings.

“It’s rewarding to see companies like American Airlines care for communities… 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,” Chef Edward Lee, the founder, mentor and director of programming at the LEE Initiative, said in the statement.

In addition to American’s efforts, a United Airlines spokesman told T+L this week the carrier donated more than 15,000 pounds of food from the airline’s Newark Liberty International Airport hub to area food banks. This effort comes after the airline started working to transform an empty cargo facility in Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport into a food distribution center.

Similarly, Delta Air Lines donated thousands of pounds of leftover food last month after the carrier cut back on in-flight services as well as offerings from their Delta Sky Clubs.