Ivy Tech culinary students volunteer amid pandemic

By The Associated Press

SOUTH BEND — Ivy Tech culinary students who lost training opportunities as schools and restaurants closed amid the coronavirus pandemic have turned to helping a food rescue organization cook and prepare meals from food donated by shuttered eateries.

Rather than letting their food inventory go to waste, restaurants, caterers and educational institutions are donating their meat, fruits and vegetables to Cultivate Culinary, a nonprofit devoted to ending the cycle of poverty and hunger.

“So many of them, all these institutions, went through their inventories of food and donated it to Cultivate rather than tossing it,” Jim Conklin, Cultivate's co-founder told the South Bend Tribune.

Prime Table, a premier steakhouse in Niles, for example, donated 800 pounds of produce and potatoes.

Brent Spring, the head of Ivy Tech Community College's culinary arts program, approached Conklin and suggested the school's culinary arts students serve as volunteers for the food rescue agency.

Spring said the volunteer effort is still ramping up, with students just beginning to sign up.

One of the students already helping out is Rebecca Jones. The Tennessee native said that volunteering for the nonprofit has helped ease the disappointment of how her college career ended amid the pandemic, with a cancelled graduation party she had planned with her family.

Jones said she enjoys the volunteer work, and feels her reward is doing something that relates to her career choice.

“I like what they do here with fresh foods, and they are feeding people," she said.

In order to maintain the safety of their workers and volunteers, Cultivate follows coronavisu guidelines like social distancing. Jones and other volunteers work with only eight people at a time and have their temperatures taken daily.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

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