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Kids get backpack with 8 frozen meals for weekend under program to rescue unused food

Frozen meals from Cultivate, provided to school children in Indiana.
Frozen meals from Cultivate, provided to school children in Indiana. (WSBT)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – An Indiana school district is taking steps to make sure kids have enough to eat.

A pilot food program at Woodland Elementary School in Elkhart Independent School District gives 20 students a backpack with eight individual frozen meals every Friday until the end of school. 

A South Bend-based non-profit food rescue organization called Cultivate, Culinary School & Catering is providing the food by rescuing unused school lunch food during the week. 

“Mostly we rescue food that's been made but never served by catering companies, large food service businesses, like the school system,” Jim Conklin, of Cultivate, said. “You don't always think of a school system. … We take that well-prepared food combine it with other food and make individual frozen meals out of it.”  

Natalie Bickel, student services supervisor at the school, said the school was wasting a lot of food.

“There wasn't anything to do with the food, and so they came to schools three times a week and rescued our food,” she said. “So they're going back to cultivate processing the food and it’s coming right back to our students.” 

The Chamber of Commerce's Leadership Academy, helped get the pilot programing going.

“It really just all came together and it's making a big impact so I'm really proud of that,” Melissa Ramey, of the Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Academy, said. “It was heartbreaking to hear that children go home on the weekends and they don't have anything to eat."

Bickel added, “We saw a need and we wanted to fill that need.”