Cultivate Food Rescue Wins Nonprofit of the Year Award from Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce

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Cultivate Food Rescue, a local nonprofit dedicated to reducing food insecurity and increasing environmental sustainability in communities in Elkhart, St. Joseph and Marshall counties, has been awarded Nonprofit of the Year by the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce. Each year, this award is granted to a local nonprofit who demonstrates an innovative product or service, growth, community involvement and other unique factors.

Cultivate Food Rescue is devoted to organizing community resources to fight hunger and increase environmental sustainability through food rescue and redistribution. Hunger was a serious problem prior to the pandemic and over the last year, hunger in our community has increased exponentially. Our nation, the wealthiest on the planet, had 54% of their students on free and reduced lunch prior to the pandemic. During the pandemic, some schools provided 100% of their students free meals. Local pantries have seen 300%-400% increase in demand. Somehow despite all of this need for food, 40% of our food supply is wasted every year! Cultivate’s goal is to reduce waste after the food has been prepared and to resource food locally for people in need to reduce food insecurity in the communities that they serve.

Cultivate serves tens of thousands of people in Elkhart, St. Joseph and Marshall counties through creating nutritious and excellent-tasting frozen meals using excess food from catering companies, universities, K-12 schools, farmers, 4-H programs and other food businesses, from both inside and outside the local tri-county area. In addition to meals, Cultivate rescues and redistributes hundreds of thousands of pounds of food resources to local food pantries to fill their shelves with perishable and non-perishable food items to feed families in need. In pre-pandemic times, Cultivate also worked with local education programs to provide culinary training in their facilities and hopes to return to this soon. Students work with chefs and instructors to learn culinary skills which provides a path to graduation and practical food service skills with which they can secure employment. At the same time, culinary students help prepare food that will feed students in their own school systems and community. Cultivate is also currently working with students from South Bend Schools studying Logistics and Health Sciences as a part of their CTE program. A partnership with Cultivate allows students the opportunity to apply their academic lessons and to do community service at the same time.

To date, Cultivate has rescued 1.25 million pounds of food and distributed nearly 300,000 meals back to the community. In 2020, Cultivate delivered 25,826 meals and over 232,800 total pounds of food in Elkhart County alone. The largest recipient of Cultivate’s meals in Elkhart County is Elkhart Community Schools who has been a long-time partner of Cultivate. Church Community Services (CCS) in Elkhart is a great partner to Cultivate as well and stores and distributes Cultivate frozen meals from their location, specifically to the Elkhart Schools. WaNee Community Schools is another large recipient of Cultivate’s services. Family Christian Development Center (FCDC) in Nappanee is a faithful partner of Cultivate who also helps with storage and distribution of meals for students. Additionally, FCDC and CSC both receive large loads of bulk food from Cultivate which fills the gap in their pantry inventory, specifically perishable items like bread, meat, dairy products, and fresh produce.

Other pantry partners of Cultivate located in Elkhart County include Faith Mission, Middlebury Food Pantry, The Window, Salvation Army, Bristol Food Pantry, Saving Grace, and more. Most recently, Cultivate added Jimtown Elementary to their weekend meal program and the school receives 300 frozen meals a week for their students. Food donated from places like Matterhorn Conference Center, Navarre Catering at the Lerner Theater and many other food distributors provides the protein, starch, and produce needed to create the delicious Cultivate meals.

Cultivate currently prepares, packages, and distributes 5,400 meals a week and when students return in the fall, they hope to increase that number to over 7,000. Volunteers play a vital role in this production and in the mission of Cultivate. Each week, nearly 100 volunteers spend time preparing food in the kitchen, packaging meals, and moving inventory. Cultivate has the opportunity to work with many students and school groups, church groups, young adults from programs like ADEC, service clubs, families and individuals who are passionate about making a difference in their community and serving those in need.

Proud sponsors of Cultivate from Elkhart County include Smoker Craft, Quality Window and Door, Family Christian Development Center, Kem Krest, R Yoder Construction, Personnel Partners, First State Bank, Cutting Edge Machine and Tool, and Star Fleet Trucking. Many local churches, service organizations, and generous individuals also support Cultivate’s mission. The financial contributions from the Elkhart County United Way and the Community Foundation of Elkhart County have been crucial in the financial security of Cultivate’s operations and in allowing them to expand their services.

For more information about Cultivate Food Rescue or to donate check out their website cultivateculinary.com or follow them on Facebook @cultivatefoodrescue.

Join Cultivate at their annual Taste of Hope Fundraiser on September 16th at the Century Center on the Island. For more information contact shellya@cultivateculinary.com.

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Lainie Holland
Cultivate Food Rescue
+1 (574) 596-1723
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