April 10, 2019

Steal this idea: Repackage cafeteria leftovers for students in need

A good solution in one community can be applied in yours. Here's an idea from a school located in Elkhart, Indiana.

Saving excess food from lunch ensures that no student will go hungry. Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Editor’s note: The Renewal Project knows that good ideas start at the local level. From time to time, we will share some of our favorite ideas from across the country that you can explore in your own communities. Have an idea you want us to share? Let us know at info@therenewalproject.com.

Filling up backpacks: An Indiana nonprofit is teaming up with a local elementary school to fill economically disadvantaged children’s backpacks with take home meals. Cultivate Culinary School & Catering, A food-rescue nonprofit in South Bend, is repurposing and repackaging excess cafeteria food for students whose families live in poverty. The goal is to make sure students don’t go hungry—and that uneaten food doesn’t go to waste.

A group of 20 children who attend Woodland Elementary School in nearby Elkhart is participating in this food-rescue pilot program. Each child is given a backpack, that also acts as a cooler, and eight frozen meals packaged in recyclable containers to eat over the weekend. Many children who come from low-income families rely on free or reduced-price school lunches to get the proper amount of nutrition; but their families are on their own over the weekend.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 13 percent of children ages 5 to 17 live in poverty. Natalie Bickel, the supervisor of student services for Elkhart Community Schools, told CNN that 64 percent of the more than 12,000 students in Elkhart district are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Launched on March 29, this pilot program is meant to address this percentage by giving the resources needed for children to have a healthy nutrition.

A similar pilot program has already been launched at Madison STEM Academy in South Bend. At that school, Cultivate helped provide 100 children with weekend meals. The goal for the Elkhart school system is to spread this food program to the remaining 21 schools in the district.

Danielle Moskowitz

Danielle Moskowitz

Dani Moskowitz is a contributor to The Renewal Project.