United Airlines has transformed one of its cargo facilities at George Bush Intercontinental Airport into a food distribution center to aid the Houston Food Bank’s efforts to feed families in need during the COVID-19 crisis.
The idea to convert the cargo space came from one employee, Mark Zessin, a United baggage team member who spends his days making sure customers’ belongings get where they need to. Now, he’s leading a team of hard-working employee volunteers at the bustling facility.
“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,” said Sharon Grant, vice president of Global Community Engagement at United. “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.”
Beyond the distribution centers, United team members across the system are finding ways to support COVID-19 first responders and those impacted by the virus. To date, United has:
- Donated more than 159,000 pounds of food to food banks, hospitals and other organizations from United’s catering facilities and Polaris lounges
- Donated 2,800 amenity kits to healthcare workers on the frontlines providing aid
- Donated $100k worth of advertising space in London to UNICEF to support its education efforts around COVID-19 and protecting children around the globe
- Operated more than 355 cargo charter flights that have moved over 5.6M kgs of cargo (including PPE, medical equipment, mail and other general cargo)
- Operated nearly 100 repatriation flights returning nearly 17,000 people home who were stranded abroad due to the COVID-19 pandemic
- Provided free flights for doctors, nurses and medical professionals traveling to New York, New Jersey and California to help battle COVID-19
Employee volunteers in Houston are receiving, packing, sorting and distributing food and other items to families in need. To date, employees have sorted and bagged nearly 160,000 pounds of food and household products and volunteered nearly 5,000 hours.
“United and its team members are selflessly stepping up to help their neighbors by adapting their cargo center to be a produce inspecting, sorting and packing operation. Much of this food will be used at our new large-scale distribution model called ‘Neighborhood Super Site’ which expect to see 3,000 to 5,000 vehicles each event. Volunteers will also pick up product at the cargo center to then make safe, no-contact deliveries to reach households that must stay quarantined for their safety and the safety of others,” said Brian Greene, president and CEO of the Houston Food Bank. “This assistance to serve the most vulnerable population during this pandemic is amazing. United is a dedicated and important partner of the Houston Food Bank, and we will not forget this generosity.”
The Houston Food Bank is one of United’s critical needs partners. Over the last four years, United has invested more than one million dollars in the organization that annually serves more than 104 million meals to food insecure individuals and families in Southeast Texas. In addition to this current effort, United and the Houston Food Bank also partnered to distribute food and supplies to Federal employees during the 2019 Federal government shutdown.