We Don’t Waste takes over airport food recovery to feed the hungry and keep pretzel packets out of landfills

Since 2015 more than 445,000 pounds of unsold food has been donated.
3 min. read
We Don’t Waste founder and executive director Arlan Preblud gives a tour of his new headquarters, Dec. 18, 2017 (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denver; colorado; denverite; food insecurity; food; sustainability;
Kevin J. Beaty

Denver's airport has switched partners for its food recovery program so junk food doesn't have to be junked.

The nonprofit We Don't Waste, which collects edible but for many reasons uneaten food from restaurants, caterers, hotels and wholesalers and delivers it to food pantries, has been picking up from the airport since October, Denver International Airport spokeswoman Emily Williams said Tuesday. The airport program started in 2015 and the original partner was the anti-hunger organization Metro Caring.

Teva Sienicki, Metro Caring's chief executive officer, said her organization worked with the airport and fellow Denver nonprofit We Don't Waste "to pass along this partnership."

"We were receiving a number of items in our DIA pick-ups that didn't meet our nutrition standards, so we thought it would be more efficient for We Don't Waste to take the lead on this one," Sienicki said.

Metro Caring now will get the food it wants from DIA through We Don't Waste, Sienicki said in an email Tuesday.

Metro Caring operates a free fresh food market at 1100 E. 18th Ave. in City Park West. The organization's programs include job training and its navigators connect people to utility assistance and other support services.

We Don't Waste spokeswoman Allie Hoffman said half the food that her organization distributes is fresh produce and lean proteins.

"We also know that people want items like sweets and candy and dessert," Hoffman said, adding that such foods are often part, but not all, the supplies that We Don't Waste distributes.

Hoffman added that individually packaged prepared meals and snack foods (think of the pretzels on the plane) can be handy, for example, as part of relief packages that Denver's police department has on hand for people experiencing homelessness, coping with a power outage or unable to store perishable supplies.

"We're not here to tell people what to eat," Hoffman said.

"It's cool that the airport wants to do something about sustainability as well, to keep all that out of the landfill," she added.

The airport restaurants, coffee shops, convenience stores and the three DIA flight kitchens -- United Catering, LSG Sky Chefs and Southwest Provisioning -- that participate can get a tax write-off for their donated prepared entrees, side dishes, prepackaged salads and sandwiches, sealed beverages, condiment packets and canned goods.

Hoffman said the partnership with the airport, which she described as "basically a city itself," has meant a big expansion for We Don't Waste. The nonprofit has collected 160,000 servings of food from the airport since October, she said.

The airport food recovery program started with 11 businesses and LSG Sky Chefs. Since then six companies and United Catering and Southwest Provisioning have joined and a total of more than 445,000 pounds of unsold food has been to donated.

The food, which must meet quality and safety standards, is stored in coolers on each concourse to be picked up regularly by We Don't Waste.

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