Indiana school district turns unused cafeteria food into take-home meals for kids in need

Cultivate fills backpacks with eight frozen meals, made from “rescued” leftover food. Kids get to take the food home on Fridays, so they can eat during the weekend. WSBT via CBS.

Students in Indiana’s Elkhart School District are served breakfast and lunch at school, but may go hungry on nights and weekends. So, the school joined forces with an innovative nonprofit to ensures kids in need have enough to eat.

The South Bend-based nonprofit called Cultivate collects leftover food from and repackages into take-home meals. The charity’s board president, Jim Conklin told WSBT how they do it. “Mostly, we rescue food that’s been made but never served by catering companies, large food service businesses, like the school system,” Conklin said.

Many school’s over-prepare food and by saving the leftovers, the meals go back to the people they were originally prepared for: kids. “Over-preparing is just part of what happens,” Conklin said. “We take well-prepared food, combine it with other food and make individual frozen meals out if it.”

At one elementary school in the district, 20 kids will get a backpack filled with food every Friday. Eight frozen meals will go into each backpack to carry the family through the weekend. This will go on until the end of the school year.

Natalie Bickel, who works for the school district’s student services department, said officials noticed they were wasting a lot of cafeteria food, but thought there was nothing to do about it. Now, Cultivate comes to the school three times a week to salvage the food.

“It’s making a big impact,” said Melissa Ramey, who works for the town’s Chamber of Commerce. “It was heartbreaking to hear that children go home on the weekends and that they don’t have anything to eat.”

Thanks to the backpacks that Cultivate fills with food, student’s won’t have to worry about where their next meal will come from. They’ll know it was made with love in their school cafeteria, and then “rescued” just for them.

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