Food rescue helping to feed Michiana

SOUTH BEND, Ind., Almost half of the food in the United States is never eaten.

Groups across the Michiana area are working to use that food to feed people that really need the meal.

At St. Margaret’s House in South Bend they serve more than 23,000 meals to women and children every year.

Tanika Harris is the director of guest services there. For more than 25 years---the non-profit has been on a mission to help women and children and a big part of that is ensuring none of them go hungry.

“So we’re just looking to continue to provide that service,” says Harris. “Because for some this is the only meal that they will have.”

Executive Chef Randy Z at Cultivate Culinary in South Bend wants to make sure it's a good one. They act as the middle-man between people who have too much food and those who don’t have enough.

In 2016, Cultivate Culinary opened as a job training center in South Bend. A year later they got into the food rescue business.

Jim Conklin is the Co-founder and board president at Cultivate.

“In about 7 months we've gathered about 30 thousand pounds of food from just that one supplied,” says Conklin. “We know there's a need. We know there's hunger in our community."

Conklin and multiple volunteers are working to change that hunger. Sometimes they’re getting food from unlikely places.

When local groups hold functions, like corporate lunches, black-tie dinners or even tailgates that food gets donated.

The term used now is known as "recycled."

“What most people don't realize at a catering event is that there's a lot of food that you don't see on the buffet,” says Conklin.

Cultivate is taking advantage and not letting a single meal go to waste.

And they've been doing it with the help of several restaurants and companies including Notre Dame Athletics.

Karen Schirmuhly is the Director of Operations with Levy Restaurants on Campus.

“I think it's great to be able to give back to the community at any time,” says Schirmuhly. “This year was a big learning experience for us.”

During the home football season more than 7,000 pounds of unserved food from Notre Dame Stadium was donated to Cultivate. That partnership was also expanded to Purcell Pavilion and Compton Family Ice Arena.

“We learned a little bit more from week to week as we understood what the guests want to eat and learned from every game,” says Schirmuhly.

They learned so much about what they needed that by the last home football game they didn’t have any leftover food to donate.

More and more people could learn how to better use uneaten and unused food. Cultivate Culinary is hoping to “rescue” more than 100,000 pounds of food in 2018.

“We have the ability to give, we have talents, resources that not everybody has. And we're just passionate about helping people,” says Conklin.

Cultivate was even able to help keep St. Margaret’s House open during renovations.

“Just recently in 2017 we had a major renovation which actually closed down our kitchen for almost, a little over a month.  And so they helped with other community partners providing meals for us there. And then anytime that we needed food or anything from them they're always been willing to help and back us up,” says Harris.

Cultivate is always looking for new partnerships to rescue food from and volunteers to help them turn that food into meals.

If you’re willing to help out you can learn more about volunteering here.

The University of Notre Dame is using a different, more techy approach to wasting less food.

Since 2015 it’s been using a program called LeanPath to help learn about and control the amount of food that is ending up in landfills.

Chris Abaysignhe is the Senior Director of Campus Dining.

“Campus dinning is the food service provider dinning service provider for the University of Notre Dame. We serve on our resident dining side an excess of 2 million meals a year. And on our retail dining side so through our restaurants and so on, an additional 2 million meals as well,” says Abaysignhe.

That’s more than 4,000,000 meals made on the university’s campus every year.

Between July 1 2016 and June 30 2017 there was more than 92,000 pounds of pre-consumer food, or food that was ready to go out for customers but wasn't needed. That food will either stay on campus or be used another day-or if it's near its shelf life it will be donated to programs in the community.

“Essentially what this program is through our daily productions and excess production, we'll be able to recover those foods and we will be able to through our network of facilities which will receive the food will help address some of the insecurity food insecurities in Saint Joseph County,” says Abaysignhe.

That has helped Notre Dame save more than $137,000.

Food rescue is relatively new in the South Bend area and the first year was all about learning for the baseline numbers. Groups doing the rescuing feel like things will only get better from here.

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