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United Airlines converts cargo facility into Houston Food Bank distribution center

United Airlines converts cargo facility into Houston Food Bank center

United Airlines Houston Food Bank cargo workers
United Airlines has converted one of its cargo facilities into a Houston Food Bank distribution center.  Photo by Steve Heldmann

Since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, the Houston Food Bank has seen a remarkable rise in need around the city. As more local families require assistance during these trying times, a major food bank partner is launching an innovative way to help.

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, according to a statement. Employee volunteers in Houston are receiving, packing, sorting, and distributing food and other items to families in need.

Thus far, employees have sorted and bagged nearly 160,000 pounds of food and household products and volunteered nearly 5,000 hours, according to the airline.

Much of this food will be used at a new large-scale distribution model called a “Neighborhood Super Site,” which expects 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 households, per the airline.

Mark Zessin, a United baggage team member, sparked the idea to convert the cargo space. For his efforts, Zessin is now leading a team of employee volunteers at the bustling facility.

Over the last four years, United has invested more than $1 million in Houston Food Bank, which annually serves more than 104 million meals to food insecure individuals and families in Southeast Texas. United and the Houston Food Bank also partnered to distribute food and supplies to Federal employees during the 2019 Federal government shutdown.

“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,” said Brian Greene, president and CEO of the Houston Food Bank.