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Expedia Group opens empty kitchen to feed families in need across Puget Sound

When the company's new Seattle headquarters sat empty during the COVID-19 pandemic, Expedia Group opened their kitchen to help feed families in need.

SEATTLE — While many workplaces sit empty as employees continue to work remotely, Expedia Group is using its empty campus for good.

When flights and vacations grounded to a halt during the coronavirus pandemic, so did normal business operations at Expedia Group’s newly-finished headquarters in Seattle’s Interbay neighborhood.

"This marketplace had only opened up a couple weeks before the shutdown,” said Katherine Cheng, head of global and community impact for Expedia Group.

The company's commercial kitchen was designed to feed Expedia employees, but the large space sat empty when workers went remote. That's when the Expedia Group and a handful of corporate sponsors came up with a plan to put the space to good use.

"We knew that food banks were getting inundated, but a lot of food-insecure people don’t have places to make the food,” explained Cheng.

Since Thanksgiving, Bon Appetit culinary chefs have been preparing hundreds of family-style meals for those in need.

Shuttles that would normally pick up and drop off employees are instead delivering the meals to non-profits, like Mary’s Place, which helps women and children transition out of homelessness.

"Oh, it’s been amazing," said Marty Hartman, executive director of Mary's Place. "What a gift in the middle of a pandemic, right?”

The meals are also helping staff at YouthCare manage increasing demand from those experiencing homelessness and food insecurity.

"Youth can sit together, enjoy a warm nutritious meal, and also the staff can focus on what youth need, rather than cooking in the kitchen and worrying about what's next for a meal," said Randi Eseltine, the director of community engagement at YouthCare. "So, it has had a huge impact."

Meals are also being delivered to the Queen Anne Food Bank, Rainier Valley Food Bank, and YWCA.

So far, the Community Meals Program has fed almost 25,000 people. In June, that number will grow to 40,000.

"We would love to be able to continue this because coming back to the office won’t be full capacity for a long time, so the kitchen still has that excess capacity to make the meals,” said Cheng.

RELATED: Look inside the new Expedia HQ in Seattle and company's commuting policy