Taylor — A chicken Caesar salad from Papa Joe’s Gourmet Market and a Starbucks blueberry Greek yogurt parfait are treats travelers can select at concession areas inside Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
But those are extremely rare delicacies for Krystle Nye, 30, a single mom in Romulus.
The mom of five recently visited a Taylor food pantry where she was able to select them from the shelves of a cooler because of a food recovery program implemented by the airport.
Detroit Metro is one of several airports — including San Francisco International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Denver International Airport and Portland International Airport — committed to reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills while supporting their communities. Detroit Metropolitan Airport has donated nearly 25,000 pounds of food since the program began in July 2016. It collects about 485 pounds a week on average to donate to the Fish and Loaves Community Food Pantry in Taylor.
Nye fought back tears to express her delight.
“This is such a blessing,” she said while with her five children inside the Taylor food pantry. “It’s extra special because my kids will love this.”
That is what is at the heart of the food recovery program. If the food is not being purchased by travelers, why waste it?
“Detroit Metropolitan Airport’s food rescue program helps fulfill several important goals for our team,” said Sara Kaplan, Wayne County Airport Authority’s sustainability program administrator. “The airport reduces its food waste, which in turn helps reduce greenhouse gasses and our airport’s carbon footprint. Through teamwork and partnerships, we are also able to send quality, nutritious food to those in need within our community — something we can all be proud of.”
Food is collected in the McNamara Terminal throughout the week and stored in coolers at the airport loading dock. Forgotten Harvest picks up the food on Fridays and delivers it to Fish and Loaves, where food pantry volunteers then immediately go into action.
On a recent Friday, they unpacked green coolers from the airport and began reading the expiration dates on the food, which included packaged gourmet salads, including crunchy kale salad, Mediterranean salad with chickpeas and walnuts, sandwiches, fresh fruit cups and baked goods from Avalon Bakery, among other foods.
The volunteers then put the packaged meals inside plastic bags and place them in shopping cars where they are wheeled to the glass-covered coolers. Visitors then can select what they want. The food is weighed after the visitors fill their shopping carts. The amount of food allowed depends on the size of the family.
Airport spokeswoman Erica Donerson added the food recovery program began “as part of our ongoing commitment to environmental sustainability.”
To help support the program, the Wayne County Airport Authority applied for and was awarded a $45,000 grant by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality last year.
“We’ve donated approximately 12 tons of food,” she said. “That’s the equivalent of not burning approximately 3,428 gallons of fuel. And every ton of food reused is the equivalent of the airport authority planting three large trees. So our donation adds up to 36 large trees.”
Mary Hollens, CEO of Fish and Loaves, said receiving the kind of donations from the airport makes people feel special.
Fish and Loaves is a faith-based, non-sectarian, non-profit volunteer organization providing emergency food assistance to families and individuals in need across seven communities, including Allen Park, Brownstown Township, Dearborn Heights, Romulus, Southgate, Taylor and Woodhaven.
“People are treated with dignity and respect here, not like being poor is a crime. It makes them feel special that people would take the time to donate foods they don’t usually see here,” Hollens said. “I wish more people would donate and realize that food insecurity is a major issue and that they are helping neighbors they didn’t realize need this help.”