A nonprofit group in Indiana is partnering with a local school district to make sure that kids have enough to eat at home.
Many students at Elkhart Community Schools qualify for free or reduced lunches, but on nights and weekends they often go hungry. Cultivate, a nonprofit based in South Bend, IN, wants to make sure kids have enough to eat during the entire week.
The organization was founded by Jim Conklin and Randy Ziolkowski. They're partnering with the school cafeterias to repackage food that hasn't been served into take-home meals.
"They're like frozen meals on wheels," Conklin explained.
Many school cafeterias over-prepare food, and by repackaging leftovers instead of throwing them away, the food goes back to the students. The pilot program at Elkhart Community schools serves about 100 students each week. The kids receive insulated backpacks with eight frozen meals each Friday to carry the family through the weekend. According to Conklin, the program has been running for about 8 weeks and they’ve sent out almost 6,400 meals.
The company has been doing food rescue since 2017, serving people in need who may not have ways to cook food on their own.
"Most of the time the people we serve, they have housing, but many times they only have microwaves," said Conklin.
However, Conklin said his dream was always to serve students in need. When he and Ziolkowski began to provide meals for students, they started with the Madison STEAM Academy in their home base, South Bend.
“In our area, there is a higher than the national average percentage of kids who get free or reduced lunch,” said Conklin. “There are a lot of great programs that provide snacks for the kids over the weekend. But we wanted to see if we could give a child something more than a snack or a shelf stable item.”
“It’s making a big impact,” said Melissa Ramey, in an interview with CBS News. She works for the town’s Chamber of Commerce and was heartbroken “to hear that children go home on the weekends and that they don’t have anything to eat.”