Ind. School District Turns Unused Cafeteria Food into Take-Home Meals

Elkhart School District has partnered with a local non-profit to provide underprivileged students with meals to take home over the weekend.

Ind. School District Turns Unused Cafeteria Food into Take-Home Meals

Sixty-four percent of the district's students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.

A South Bend, Indiana, school district is doing its part to combat food insecurity by giving students take-home meals prepared from unused cafeteria food.

Elkhart School District has partnered with Cultivate, a local non-profit organization, in a pilot program to repackage leftovers for students who may not be getting enough food over the weekends, reports Yahoo.

According to a 2017 study from Feeding America, an estimated one in eight Americans are food insecure. This includes 12 million children.

“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, president of Cultivate. “You don’t always think of a school.”

Last Friday, Cultivate gave 20 select students from Woodland Elementary School a backpack filled with eight individual frozen meals. The non-profit will continue to do so every Friday for the students through the end of the school year.

Natalie Bickel, who works for the district’s student services department, said officials noticed they were wasting a lot of cafeteria food but didn’t know what to do with it. That’s when Cultivate started coming to the school three times a week to salvage the leftovers.

“The kids were thrilled, staff were crying, kids were so excited,” she said. “Sixty-four percent of the more than 12,000 students in the district are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch.”

Bickel said the program had to “start a little small” because officials weren’t sure how much food they would have.

“Over-preparing is just part of what happens,” said Conklin. “We take well-prepared food, combine it with other food and make individual frozen meals out if it.”

The district is reportedly working to expand the food program to other schools, according to Fox News.

“It’s making a big impact,” said Melissa Ramey, council liaison for the Elkhart Leadership Academy. “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.”

About the Author


Amy is Campus Safety’s Senior Editor. Prior to joining the editorial team in 2017, she worked in both events and digital marketing.

Amy’s mother, brother, sister-in-law and a handful of cousins are teachers, motivating her to learn and share as much as she can about campus security. She has a minor in education and has worked with children in several capacities, further deepening her passion for keeping students safe.

In her free time, Amy enjoys exploring the outdoors with her husband, her son and her dog.

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