School district turns unused cafeteria food into take-home meals for kids

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An Indiana school district is taking steps to make sure kids have enough to eat.

Elkhart Community Schools is teaming up with Cultivate, a South Bend-based food rescue for a pilot program that is providing weekend meals to elementary school students. 

"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 with Cultivate. "You don't always think of a school system."

It rescues the unused food at the school. 

"And over preparing is just part of what happens. And we take that well-prepared prepared food combine it with other food and make individual frozen meals out of it," Conklin said. 

Under the pilot program, 20 students will receive a backpack with eight individual meals every Friday until the end of the school year.

Student Services Supervisor Natalie Bickel said, "We were 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. So they're going back to cultivate processing the food and coming right back to our students."

The local Chamber of Commerce's leadership academy helped get the program going. 

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

"We saw a need and we wanted to fill that need," Bickel said. 

It's a big deal for students on the receiving end. The school district wants to expand the program to other schools.