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South Bend launching community freezer program in partnership with Cultivate Food Rescue

Several of the frozen meals inside the community freezer at South Bend's Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center.
Jakob Lazzaro
Several of the frozen meals inside the community freezer at South Bend's Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center.

The city of South Bend is partnering with Cultivate Food Rescue to launch a community freezer program to help address food insecurity. The first freezer has been installed at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center on the city’s west side.

Cultivate executive director Jim Conklin said the freezers can hold 270 balanced, microwavable frozen meals. They’re sorted into bags of 6 — two breakfast, two lunch, and two dinner — and the nonprofit will be restocking them as often as needed.

“Usually what you’ll see is people grabbing the resources and taking more than what they need just because they’re not sure that it’s going to be here for a long period of time,” Conklin said. “And then you’ll see that kind of wind down over time, once they realize this is a program that’s going to be here and this freezer will remain stocked every time they walk into this community center.”

“One of the keys in solving the problem of food insecurity is getting the food close to the people where they live,” he added.

Council member Henry Davis Jr. said according to census data, the surrounding community has a poverty rate of just under 40 percent — nearly double the city’s average.

And council member Lori Hamann said more freezers are coming to neighborhoods facing similar challenges — one at the Charles Black Community Center next week and a third at the O'Brien Fitness Center in 2 to 3 weeks.

“This is just another piece to a very large puzzle of trying to address food insecurity and the food deserts that exist in our city,” Hamann said.

The meals are prepared at Cultivate’s kitchen or are rescued, never served but over-prepared meals from community partners like the University of Notre Dame.

If you want to help, Conklin said Cultivate is always accepting monetary donations. But the food itself is an even bigger asset.

“We would love to receive food from every food business that we have in the community — from the farms, to the food distributors, to the restaurants, to the catering companies,” Conklin said. “We can grow as our food supply grows and our financial supply grows.”

Contact Jakob at or follow him on Twitter at @JakobLazzaro.

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Jakob Lazzaro comes to Indiana from Chicago, where he graduated from Northwestern University in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and a double major in History. Before joining WVPE, he wrote NPR's Source of the Week e-mail newsletter, and previously worked for CalMatters, Pittsburgh's 90.5 WESA and North by Northwestern.