frozen meal

Elementary school turns leftover lunch into frozen meals for children in need

Editor’s Note: This story is originally from April 2019 and has been updated with newer information.

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Poverty is a problem all over the world. Subsequently, there are hundreds of thousands of children who go without food. But one elementary school is doing its part to help those kids who are in need. In 2019, they started working with an organization called Cultivate Food Rescue. Here, they are turning the leftover lunches made at the school cafeteria into frozen meals for the less fortunate. 

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frozen meals
Image via YouTube/WSBT News

Leftover School Lunch becomes Frozen Meals

This frozen meal program was first introduced in 2019 at Woodland Elementary school in Elkhart County. They realized the waste the school was going through. Especially when it came to the leftover meals from the cafeteria lunches. The food that was not eaten was previously thrown away! But now they are being packaged, frozen, and distributed to certain kids to take home over the weekend. 

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In Elkhart County in Indiana, approximately 12.8% of the children are impoverished. This is between the ages of 5 years old and 17. There are 12000 poverty-stricken children in the school district. As such, 64% of them are eligible to get free lunches at school, or at least a discounted lunch. The concern was what happened to the children when they got home for the weekend, and whether or not they had food to eat. 

At Woodland Elementary, the students apply for the frozen meals program, and so far there are 20 students who qualify. They are each given a bag that is insulated so the meals remain frozen until they get home to their freezer. Each bag can fit up to eight meals, which typically contain a balanced meal and are packaged ethically. The children can expect chicken with cabbage or corned beef recipes for dinner, as well as red velvet pancakes or french toast for breakfast. The Student Services supervisor for Elkhart Community Schools is Natalie Bickel. She was concerned about the number of children going hungry because of financial strain at home. She says: “A lot of them are food insecure. They know they’re not going to have breakfast and a lunch”. Allegedly the cafeteria workers at the Woodland Elementary School gave a round of applause for her. 

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The Meals are a Relief for struggling Parents

Angel Null is the mother of children who qualify for the meals. Meanwhile, her husband had recently been laid off from his job working in the RV industry. “It’s been a struggle as a mom”. she told The Washington Post. “There are times where it’s been just peanut butter and jelly.”

She now has peace of mind when her children come home with a bag full of food each week. So they have gone from stressing about putting food on the table to being able to decide what they feel like eating. “There’s a peace of mind to know there’s something in the fridge“.

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Cultivate Involvement

As of November 2021 Cultivate saved their 2-million pounds of food and it’s still going strong in 2022! Cultivate is a program that donates frozen meals to children in need. The term “rescued” food, which you will see on their website, refers to food that is saved from being wasted. This food is put into the previously mentioned ethical packages. Then, they are frozen and distributed to children who would otherwise go home hungry. Finally, there are sponsorship programs where people can pay $35 each month for a child to get one of those insulated bags filled with meals. 

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Jon Conklin, spokesperson for Cultivate explained that the food they usually source comes from catering companies that cooked the food, but it was never plated. “Mostly, we rescue food that’s been made but never served by catering companies, large foodservice businesses, like the school system,” Conklin says. “You don’t always think of a school.”

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Cultivate even has a section on their website where you can sign up to be a food donor. They mention some reasons why this will be good for you. Some of the reasons include: “It promotes that you care about your community,” and: “It promotes that you care about the environment.”

Keep Reading: Single Mom Living On One Meal A Day Had To Sell Daughter’s Present For Food

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Sources:

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  1. “Food at an elementary school was going to waste. Now, it goes home with needy children.” Washington Post. April 3, 2019
  2. Indiana school district turns unused cafeteria food into take-home meals for kids in need.  CBS News.  Caitlin O’Kane, April 3, 2019
  3. School Cafeteria Turns Leftover Food Into Frozen Take-Home Meals For Kids. Scary Mommy. Valerie Williams. 4.3.2019
  4. “Cultivate Food Rescue saves their 2-millionth pound of food” WNDU. November 2021.
Jade Small
Freelance Writer
Jade is a freelance writer and content creator from South Africa with over 7 years experience writing and creating. She's also a proud single mom to a super 13 year old boy.
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