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Notre Dame meeting sustainability goals in food rescue project

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - It’s an effort to make sure those in need go to bed with a full stomach. Behind the scenes of Notre Dame’s impressive football season is a non-profit partnership to help the hungry with a food rescue project.

Plenty of food is served at the stadium. Thanks to the new partnership, the unused food now won’t go to waste.

Notre Dame Associate Director for Public Affairs Jessica Brookshire says with the new stadium came more sustainability goals.

“We wanted the new stadium to be as sustainable as possible,” she said.

It didn’t take long to see an opportunity.

“So we were looking at options, knowing that we were going to be entertaining lots of people, which means preparing food for lots of people, which means you do have waste,” said Brookshire.

But now thanks to a South Bend non-profit, that food is far from waste.

“We take that and then we process it and get it out to agencies in sizes that they can tolerate and handle. That way it’s not going to waste,” said Cultivate Co-founder Randy Z.

Cultivate Culinary School and Catering is known for providing at-risk teens and adults with opportunities to work in the food industry.

Just this past July, the non-profit also started food rescue.

So far Cultivate has saved around 33,000 pounds of food. That food is repurposed or repackaged and given to community agencies to help feed the hungry in South Bend.

Cultivate says there’s a common misconception about food rescue. Many people view rescued food as leftover food, but it’s not.

“It is food prepared that has not been served,” said Randy Z.

And the caliber of food coming from Notre Dame, Cultivate says, is bar none.

“They have very high quality products made by some of the best chefs around,” said Randy Z. “It’s just a joy to get their stuff because we have an opportunity to get that to people who would never have an opportunity to eat that kind of food at that high of level.”

The partners see it as a win-win, with Cultivate able to serve that quality food to the community, and Notre Dame eliminating waste.

“It’s exciting,” said Brookshire. “We’re doing something good with something we have. It takes some thought, but we found a great partner to be able to work with and I think all of us are meeting the goals that we had established.

This partnership won’t end at the end of football season. Brookshire says the partners plan to continue food rescue for Notre Dame hockey and basketball games. 

She hopes this will encourage others to look into food rescue.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to bring awareness to food rescuing and hopefully encourage others to think about it, to partner with others in the community to make it happen,” Brookshire said.

And with the continued partnership comes a need for volunteers. Cultivate says they are always looking for volunteers to help repackage food. Volunteer opportunities can be found here.

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