The unfortunate but widely accepted reality in the developed world is that unused food gets thrown away. A lot of uneaten food simply does not find itself cooked or prepared and just as everyone does - we throw it away. A great deal of us feel guilt and remorse knowing there is a number of people that don’t always know where the next meal is coming from.
In April of 2019, the administrators of Elkhart School District in Indiana have decided to partly address this issue, partnering up with a non-profit organization to send leftover food from their cafeteria to their students in need.
At the Elkhart School District students can get breakfast and lunch but the question is about the “food insecure” homes where some kids don’t have dinner - and aren’t fed properly on the weekends.
This is when the school district decided to team up with a non-profit organization called Cultivate. What Cultivate does is they collect leftover food and repackage it into meals for kids to take home with them. Food from the schools’ cafeterias is not the only one - catering companies and large food businesses also end up donating food to Cultivate as well.
One of the issues that occur at cafeterias is that the workers sometimes over-prepare breakfasts and lunches. Cultivate noticed this trend and tried making the most out of it by finding a way to repurpose the leftovers. “Over-preparing is just a part of what happens,” stated the board president of Cultivate, Jim Conklin.
“We take over-prepared food, combine it with other food and make individual frozen meals out of it,” said Conklin. Cultivate is doing a marvelous job of exploiting leftovers and over-prepared food and finding them a purpose - sending it to those whom it was originally intended for, the kids.
Every Friday, 20 students receive a backpack filled with food with eight frozen meals each, aiding families in need through the weekends. Elkhart’s representative of student services department, Natalie Bickel, noticed lunches and breakfasts at school were going to waste and she is more than delighted that there’s a way of repurposing food now.
She notes that Cultivate essentially ‘rescue’ their food, take it to their own facilities to process and package it, and then send them right back to schools so they can give the backpacks to their students.
Melissa Ramey, a member of Elkhart’s Chamber of Commerce, said: “It was heartbreaking to hear that children go home on the weekends and have nothing to eat there.” She’s extremely happy to know that the school district now along with Cultivate’s generous efforts, assistance and donations are making a positive change for the community. “It’s making a big impact,” she added.
There are over 13 million children in the United States who live in these “food insecure” homes, and Elkhart school district officials now make sure that are taken care of. Hopefully, Elkhart serves as a stepping stone and an example to many others across the country.