As the pandemic drags on, it's bringing an economic recession with it. That financial downturn is leaving families hungry.
All the food at Cultivate Culinary is going to families in need. Cultivate takes donations of unused food and uses it to supply food pantries and other organizations. The need for those partnerships has only increased since spring.
Chef Randy Z has had a lot of heavy lifting to do. This week, he was helping coordinate volunteers as they packaged meals.
"When the pandemic first hit, I thought we were out of business being food rescue, but it’s done the total opposite," said Z.
Z and his team take unused food from around the community and turn it into prepared meals for food pantries, school children, veterans and more. Since 2017, they've produced more than 1 million lbs. of food.
"About close to 650,000 or 700,000 of that has just been this year, so that tells you the amount of food that’s out there that’s looking for a home basically," said Z.
"Believe it or not, we’ve actually had a huge influx of food coming in during this time," said EnFocus Innovation Fellow Maxx Hamm.
Maxx Hamm works with EnFocusto help Cultivate coordinate its deliveries. He says organizations like the University of Notre Dame had a lot of food on hand when the pandemic started that they donated to Cultivate rather than see it go to waste.
"Given everything that’s going on with the world right now and COVID-19, there’s definitely an increased need for this type of support throughout our community," said Hamm.
Z says he's always known there was a need for food in the community, but he didn't realize how bad it would get during the pandemic.
'We actually were doing 2,400 of our frozen meals before the pandemic. And when the pandemic hit, we jumped to 16,000 meals a week."
Which means a lot of work for the Culitvate Culinary kitchens. And they're not slowing down.
"There’s a need out there and I’ve got to fill it. Cultivate is doing everything they can to help people in need," said Z.
Z says this space was almost too big when he moved in about a year ago. Now he says he’s almost outgrown it.