While school is in session, these children have access to breakfast and lunch during the week, but the weekends can be hard. On Monday mornings, many food-insecure kids start their day behind on nutrition and energy, which affects their ability to learn. In fact, when it comes to providing a good learning environment, the only thing a child needs more than air is food. 

Cultivate’s backpack program has been stepping in to fill the blanks in weekend nutrition for elementary school kids since February of 2019. We started with a pilot program of 150 children, increased to 400, and have since increased to 600. We’re projecting to be serving 1,000 children with weekend meals by the 2020-2021 school year. 

But we can’t do it alone. 

In addition to seeking sponsorship for backpacks at $35 per month, Cultivate is partnering with dozens of other nonprofit organizations and churches to help handle the logistics of the backpack program in Elkhart and Marshall Counties. These partners are crucial to the operation, storing months worth of frozen meals and picking up and dropping off backpacks at their county’s participating schools. This frees up Cultivate’s headquarters facility to focus on the food rescue and preparation, teaching, and organizing the St. Joseph County participating backpacks.  

Cultivate’s Extended Community

Church Community Services in Elkhart, Family Christian Development Center in Nappanee, and The Center at Donaldson in Marshall County are serving as storage and distribution points for backpacks for 350 students across three different elementary schools. 

Our friends at Church Community Services had this to say about our partnership: “We are so excited to be partnering with Cultivate Food Rescue! … Each week volunteer groups from River Oaks Community Church-Elkhart, Lighthouse Vineyard Church and Trinity Church on Jackson help Church Community Services pack backpacks of rescued meals and deliver them to Mary Daly Elementary, Hawthorne Elementary, Pinewood Elementary, Roosevelt STEAM Academy and Woodland Elementary. Through our partnership, 100 kids will receive six meals each so they won’t go hungry over the weekend!”

Thanks to these partners leading the way and organizing the logistics, Cultivate’s backpack program is growing and feeding more and more at-risk children.