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Notre Dame partnership donates gameday food to those in need

Jim Conklin and his dad prepare food.
Jennifer Weingart
WVPE Public Radio


Food left over after Notre Dame football games won’t be going in the trash this year, instead it’s being rescued by a non-profit called Cultivate.

On Monday, Jim Conklin Cultivate’s president was in a kitchen under Notre Dame’s stadium helping pack up food to take back to their kitchen to repackage and repurpose.

“Blueberry cobbler, yeah. There are actually some dishes that are great for freezing, blueberry cobbler would be one,” Conklin said. “So, what you’d find would be a protein and a veggie in with this cobbler. So you’d have what we’d call a well-balanced meal, a little bit of variety.”

Food for Notre Dame home games used to be prepared and wrapped, and anything unused would go in the trash.

This year a partnership between the university and Cultivate means that food ends up feeding hungry people instead.

Perishables like fresh fruit and lettuce are transported immediately to community partners like Hope Ministries or Goodwill Industries to be passed out. Last gameday they took more than 800 pounds of grapes out to a housing project in South Bend and handed them to kids as they got off the school bus.

The rest is packaged into microwavable meals; a protein, a vegetable and a starch, that will be frozen and handed out as needed.

The program fits Notre Dame’s sustainability initiative by eliminating waste.

“It’s about helping them eliminate waste that’s on campus, that’s the big goal that they have,” Conklin said. “Americans waste about 40 percent of their food supply, that’s about $165 billion a year that’s thrown into the landfills.”

Besides the university Cultivate works with Century Center and Nelson’s to rescue food. They also run a culinary arts training program that certifies at-risk high school students in culinary fields.

Cultivate’s chef and culinary instructor Randy Z said their work is about making a difference.

“You hear a lot of people talk about hunger in our area but we are actually really doing something about it, and we’re doing it daily,” Z said.

So far the university has donated about a ton of food. For the rest of the season on Mondays after gamedays Cultivate’s volunteers will be at Notre Dame packing up the rescued food for people in need.