School Turns Leftover Restaurant Food Into Frozen, Take-Home Dinners To Assist Students In Need
If you’ve ever worked in a professional kitchen you know that plenty of food goes to waste.
But now, a school district in Indiana is working to reduce food waste and provide students in need with meals to take home over the weekend.
For the neediest kids, the evenings and weekends can be tough. School often provides them with the only guaranteed meal of the day.
And having enough nutritious food to eat is closely linked with academic success, so everyone wins in this unique program.
In a brilliantly creative move, northern Indiana’s Elkhart Country Community School system teamed up with a non-profit group called Cultivate for a pilot program at Woodland Elementary, according to local news channel WSBT.
If all goes well, they will expand the program to feed more students in neighboring schools.
Twenty children are currently enrolled in the pilot, which provides them with a backpack filled with eight individual frozen meals each Friday throughout the school year.
The meals are made using food that cafeteria workers prepared but never served, so there’s no extra expense involved. They’re simply making sure extra food goes where it’s needed instead of into the trash.
“Over-preparing is just part of what happens,” said Cultivate spokesperson Jim Conklin. “We take well-prepared food, combine it with other food and make individual frozen meals out if it.”
Natalie Bickel, the supervisor of student services in Elkhart, said until the program came along, leftover food was going to waste. This is typical of big kitchens that serve foods buffet or cafeteria-style.
And the kids aren’t getting scraps from the bottom of the barrel. The food is simply extras that never made it out into the lineup and stayed back in the kitchen, so it’s free from contamination.
Cultivate has been rescuing food for the needy for some time, but they had never tried the project in schools.
“Mostly, we rescue food that’s been made but never served by catering companies, large food service businesses, like the school system,” said Jim Conklin, Cultivate’s President and co-founder. “You don’t always think of a school.”
Now, Cultivate comes to the elementary school three times a week to pick up extra food.
The program is getting funding from the Elkhart Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Academy. Academy liaison Melissa Ramey says it’s making a big impact:
“I am proud of that. It was heartbreaking to hear that children go home on the weekends and that they don’t have anything to eat.”
Through community and university partnerships, Cultivate can provide nutritious meals to those in need for as little as $1.50 per serving.
They are also rescuing food leftover from university events, such as football games.
Cultivate General Manager and co-founder Randy Z collects untouched, unserved leftovers from high-end events and reports that they’ve created 11,000 meals out of these so far.
“You get a protein, a starch, and a vegetable. It’s all made by top chefs in the community. It’s not been stepped on by any chemicals, preservatives, anything,” he said.
We love this creative way of making sure good food goes to those in need and doesn’t end up in the trash!
It’s amazing that it took so long for someone to think of this.
And despite the logistic difficulties involved in the project, the press that Cultivate has received around the country will no doubt lead to other, similar projects. And that’s good news for everyone!
To learn more about Cultivate, scroll down below to hear more about their programs around the northern Indiana community.