Cultivate Food Rescue, the local food rescue organization, saved and repurposed 20,775 pounds of excess food from Notre Dame Stadium during the recently completed home football season, contributing to a significant milestone for the 4-year-old nonprofit: 2 million pounds of food rescued overall.
The haul included 10,512 pounds of protein, 4,344 pounds of vegetables, 2,858 pounds of starch, 1,294 pounds of bread and grains, 1,331 pounds of fruit and 436 pounds of dairy — or the equivalent of about 16,600 meals.
“For the past several years, Cultivate Food Rescue has been an incredible partner, harvesting hundreds of thousands of pounds of food from the University campus,” said Tim Sexton, associate vice president for public affairs at Notre Dame. “Cultivate’s mission is to fight hunger and reduce food waste. We are grateful for the enormous impact they are having in our region.”
In partnership with Notre Dame and other local suppliers, Cultivate rescues and distributes excess food, including fruits, vegetables and other perishable items and prepared but unserved food, to more than 100 organizations in St. Joseph, Marshall and Elkhart counties in Indiana, including dozens of food pantries and soup kitchens.
The organization also operates a school-based backpack program that provides frozen meals to 1,000 children in the counties, helping to bridge the 68-hour food gap for many students between Friday at lunch and Monday at breakfast.
The easy-to-prepare meals consist of a meat, vegetable, starch and an occasional dessert.
Notre Dame was among the first organizations to partner with Cultivate when it moved into the food rescue space in 2017, beginning with Notre Dame Stadium and later expanding to Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center, Compton Family Ice Arena and other athletic and dining venues.
Since then, the University has donated more than 200,000 pounds of food to the nonprofit, helping to fight hunger and reduce food waste, which contributes to climate change.
Notre Dame students, faculty and staff also routinely volunteer with Cultivate to process excess food from the Morris Inn and other venues.
“Our success would not be possible without the generous support of food donors like the University of Notre Dame,” Jim Conklin, executive director and co-founder of Cultivate, said. “The University’s drive for sustainability was a springboard for our success.”
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, 40 percent of the food in the United States is wasted, even as one in eight Americans struggle to put enough food on the table. From an environmental perspective, food waste accounts for an estimated 6 to 8 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
In addition to Cultivate, Notre Dame partners with Food Rescue US to donate leftovers from the dining halls and the Center for Culinary Excellence to local homeless shelters. The University also collaborates with Grind2Energy and Homestead Dairy to convert nonconsumable food waste from those locations to clean, renewable energy.