School & District Management News in Brief

Hungry Students Taking Home Uneaten Meals

By Sasha Jones — April 16, 2019 2 min read

On Fridays, more than 100 students in three Indiana districts take home two backpacks. One is packed with their usual school supplies. The second is insulated and filled with eight frozen meals made up of food that would have otherwise been thrown away.

The backpacks filled with weekend meals is one of the newest ways that schools are battling food insecurity and hunger among students.

“We know that there’s a huge need of food insecurity in our county,” said Natalie Bickel, the supervisor of student services and the attendance officer of the Elkhart Community school district in Elkhart, Ind. “It just makes sense when you think of how much waste there is.”

Food rescue is the main goal of Cultivate, the Indiana nonprofit that has partnered with the districts. It encourages restaurants, grocery stores, and other community partners to donate edible food that would otherwise get tossed. These are not leftovers but instead meals that were prepared and never served.

The food is taken to Cultivate in a refrigerated truck, logged, dated, and placed in a cooler. A team of employees and volunteers package the food, adding labels that include descriptions of the meal, cooking instructions, and potential allergens.

The weekend-meals program began this year as a partnership between Cultivate and the South Bend Community district, where 70 percent of students received free and reduced-price lunches in 2017, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Funded by a grant from the Kelly Cares Foundation, the Madison STEAM Academy, the elementary school where the program is being piloted in that district, identified kindergartners and 1st graders who were food insecure.

Some of those students’ families did not have microwaves to heat the meals, said Deb Martin, the principal of Madison STEAM Academy. The school was able to give them microwaves through donations from Best Buy and the Kelly Cares Foundation.

Researchers are studying the program to see if it affects student attendance and reading achievement. Martin said attendance has already increased.

The Elkhart district started the program soon after South Bend, with one change: Rather than using grant funding, Elkhart donates cafeteria food to Cultivate three days a week.

In 2017, 62 percent of students in the Elkhart district received free and reduced-price lunch, according to Casey data.

“Cultivate would love to be in every school, but for that to happen, the school [districts] have to be involved, and they have to get more of the community to be involved,” said Randy Z, the general manager and co-founder of Cultivate. “We can’t fix the world unless they’re going to contribute to us or find more food suppliers.”

Cultivate also serves a small number of students at Madison Elementary School as part of its partnership with the Penn-Harris-Madison district.

“There’s a lot more than just the kids at my schools or the kids at Elkhart schools,” said Martin. “I think that this is going to start a new movement of not wasting food.”

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the April 17, 2019 edition of Education Week as Hungry Students Taking Home Uneaten Meals


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Classroom Technology Webinar
Here to Stay – Pandemic Lessons for EdTech in Future Development
What technology is needed in a post pandemic district? Learn how changes in education will impact development of new technologies.
Content provided by AWS
School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Strategies & Tips for Complex Decision-Making
Schools are working through the most disruptive period in the history of modern education, facing a pandemic, economic problems, social justice issues, and rapid technological change all at once. But even after the pandemic ends,

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Cash for Shots? Districts Take New Tacks to Boost Teacher Vaccinations
In order to get more school staff vaccinated, some district leaders are tempting them with raffles, jeans passes, and cash.
8 min read
Illustration of syringe tied to stick
School & District Management National Teachers' Union President: Schools Must Reopen 5 Days a Week This Fall
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten wants five days a week of in-person school next fall.
4 min read
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, talks during a news conference in front of the Richard R. Green High School of Teaching on Sept. 8, 2020.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, talks during a news conference in front of the Richard R. Green High School of Teaching on Sept. 8, 2020.
Mark Lennihan/AP
School & District Management Principals and Stress: Strategies for Coping in Difficult Times
Running schools in the pandemic has strained leaders in unprecedented ways. Principals share their ideas for how to manage the stress.
6 min read
Illustration of calm woman working at desk
School & District Management Wanted: Superintendents to Lead Districts Through the End of a Pandemic
Former superintendents say there are signs when it's time to move on. Their replacements are more likely to be greenhorns, experts say.
4 min read
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner speaks at a news conference at the school district headquarters in Los Angeles on March 13, 2020. Beutner will step down as superintendent after his contract ends in June, he announced Wednesday, April 21, 2021.
Austin Beutner, the superintendent of Los Angeles Unified, will step down after his contract ends in June.
Damian Dovarganes/AP