Cultivate teams up with volunteers in Elkhart County to serve more children with food insecurities

NOW: Cultivate teams up with volunteers in Elkhart County to serve more children with food insecurities

ELKHART, Ind. --- A local food rescue organization is working to fill the 68-hour gap when students are not in school and could possibly be missing a meal.

Cultivate Culinary serves Elkhart, St. Joseph and Marshall counties by teaming up with local food suppliers, like Notre Dame.

Cultivate takes the unserved food and uses it to feed children with food insecurities in the Michiana community.

The program recently expanded to serve Elkhart County with the help of volunteers, such as Church Community Services, to assist in distributing the food to schools in the area.

Church Community Services has been a food pantry for 50 years serving families and meeting parents, but now they get to reach students themselves.

“It’s pretty rewarding to know that we’re part of feeding the kids who really are in need in our community,” Tom McArthur said, the Executive Director of Church Community Services.

Church Community Services partnered with Cultivate to take unserved food from food suppliers and repurpose it to feed elementary school children during the 68-hour gap they are not at school.

“We’re trying to help them get through the weekend and get their bellies full and be ready for school on Monday,” McArthur said.

Cultivate delivers pre-packaged boxes to volunteers that then allocate the meals into insulated backpacks for the children.

In the Elkhart Community Schools alone, 100 children receive the repurposed meals—totaling out at 600 meals every weekend.

Each child takes home six meals in an insulated backpack with a tag to designate what “number” student is to receive the pack and what school it is going to.

“Protein, a vegetable and a starch goes into every meal,” Todd Zeltwanger said, the Director of Fund Development. “It’s a good source of nutrition for them as their minds are developing and growing.”

At Cultivate, they pick up the unserved food and cook anything raw in-house. All meals are then packaged up and sent out to distributors, such as Church Community Services.

“We’re finding by providing these meals it’s helping them in the classroom academically and with their attendance and their behavior,” Zeltwanger said.

Zeltwanger said they want to do more to help feed the 45,000 students on the free and reduced lunch program in Elkhart, St. Joseph and Marshall counties.

“Let’s get these students a good start and get them on their way to being successful and leaders in our community in the future,” Zeltwanger said.

Cultivate serves 600 total backpacks in Elkhart, St. Joseph and Marshall counties. The organization hopes to expand to 1,000 backpacks next school year.

Volunteers in Elkhart County alone plan to serve 50 additional backpacks in the coming weeks.

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