What could be more appetizing?
Airplane food is being served by the city Sanitation Department as part of the Big Apple’s emergency coronavirus food program, The Post has found.
The two firms that supply America’s major airlines with in-flight meal service scored contracts worth a combined $35.5 million to provide the prepackaged meals to the city’s Department of Sanitation, records show.
City Hall consolidated its myriad food programs in response to the COVID-19 outbreak under Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia in March as the city’s economy shut down.
But one company, Gate Gourmet, kept failing to make deliveries on time, leaving officials fearful the food had spoiled, officials confirmed in response to questions from The Post.
The company received $3.1 million before it was given the boot.
“Their contract was suspended following a series of late deliveries that made us worried the food had spoiled,” said Joshua Goodman, a spokesman for the Sanitation Department.
Gate Gourmet was notified April 27 that its contract would be suspended May 1 after the company “failed to make at least a dozen deliveries in a timely manner” to distribution sites, Goodman added.
Sky Chefs would go on to provide the Big Apple with 1.5 million of the 83 million meals delivered so far under the food program.
The contracts with the two airline kitchen companies are among the largest awarded by Gotham’s $518 million emergency food delivery program. It was launched as the coronavirus pandemic slammed into the five boroughs, which made it difficult for the elderly and infirm to shop for groceries or prepare meals.
Both firms have deep ties to the airline business. Sky Chefs is owned by the holding company for Germany’s largest carrier, Lufthansa, while Gate Gourmet was born from the catering division of the now-defunct SwissAir.
Trucks for both companies are staples of New York City’s major airports, where their trucks are seen stocking planes from virtually every airline that are bound for everywhere from Brussels to Buffalo.
The city program struggled in the early days as it merged together a series of disparate efforts, including the much-criticized senior food program launched by the Department for the Aging that iced out nonprofits traditionally used to provide meals.
It was also criticized for failing to reliably provide kosher meals to the city’s large Jewish population and city officials promised in May they were cracking down on substandard vendors — including Gate Gourmet.
All told, City Hall has awarded at least $3.4 billion in contracts related to New York’s coronavirus response, according to filings with City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office. That tally does not include deals struck by the city’s Economic Development Corporation.
Roughly a third of that expense, $1.2 billion, was for medical, surgical, and laboratory supplies and equipment.
Gate Gourmet did not return requests for comment.
“We worked with caterers, restaurant groups, anyone who could provide the amount of food needed to ensure no New Yorker goes hungry due to this crisis, especially local businesses,” said Goodman.
“New Yorkers can find great food in sometimes unexpected places, and we are incredibly grateful both for the workers preparing the food and for the licensed TLC drivers delivering it.”