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AEP Foundation Helps Feed Children through Cultivate Food Rescue’s Backpack Program

January 21, 2021

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Food insecurity is a major issue in a number of communities and the need to provide meals for families is being exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. To help address this fundamental need, The American Electric Power (AEP) Foundation, on behalf of Indiana Michigan Power (I&M) will donate $126,000 to Cultivate Food Rescue. 

Cultivate Food Rescue, based in South Bend, is devoted to organizing community resources to fight hunger through food rescue. The grant money will specifically go towards Cultivate Food Rescue’s Backpack Program, which ensures children in St. Joseph, Elkhart and Marshall Counties have food on weekends. Children receive six frozen meals per weekend through the school year. In total, the grant money will help provide 63,000 meals to local children.

“The support from the AEP Foundation and Indiana Michigan Power will give stability to hundreds of students in our local community through the school year,” said Todd Zeltwanger, Director of Fund Development, Cultivate Food Rescue. “These children will not have to worry about where their next meal comes from allowing them to focus on their school work and return to school on Monday’s ready to learn.”

The meals provided are nutritious and are made with both already prepared and also unprepared food rescued from area foodservice providers, caterers, grocery stores and educational institutions.  This both meets the children's needs and reduces food waste.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic impacts families in the communities where we live and work, I am proud the AEP Foundation and I&M are stepping up and helping our neighbors,” said Lesley Odom, I&M Community Affairs Manager for South Bend, Elkhart and Southwest Michigan. “Through the generosity of the AEP Foundation, we can focus on battling hunger and improving the quality of education for our families. What matters most to everyone at I&M is being there for our customers when they need it the most.”

Since 2017, Cultivate Food Rescue has rescued more than 1.1 million pounds of food and distributed more than 180,000 meals in 2020 alone. The goal is to serve more than 1,000 local students through the current school year.


ABOUT CULTIVATE FOOD RESCUE: Cultivate Food Rescue is a nonprofit organization operating in St. Joseph, Elkhart and Marshall counties.  Cultivate rescues excess food and repurposes it into healthy, nutritious meals for food-insecure children in local elementary schools.  Cultivate delivers six frozen meals in backpacks in order to provide schoolchildren with the weekend nutrition they need to show up to school ready and prepared to learn.

Cultivate is also piloting a program that leverages a network of local food pantries to buy perishable, staple items at wholesale and bulk prices.  Cultivate’s mission is to be a national leader in food access innovation in order to rescue excess food, support the local food ecosystem and meet the nutritional needs of our community.

ABOUT THE AEP FOUNDATION: The American Electric Power Foundation is funded by American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP) and its utility operating units, including Indiana Michigan Power. The Foundation provides a permanent, ongoing resource for charitable initiatives involving higher dollar values and multi-year commitments in the communities served by AEP and initiatives outside of AEP’s 11-state service area. The Foundation’s areas of focus include special emphasis on improving lives through education from early childhood through higher education, protecting the environment, providing basic human services in the areas of hunger, housing, health and safety, and enriching life through art, music and cultural heritage. The Foundation is based in Columbus, Ohio.

ABOUT INDIANA MICHIGAN POWER: Indiana Michigan Power (I&M) is headquartered in Fort Wayne, and its approximately 2,100 employees serve more than 599,000 customers. More than two-thirds of its energy delivered in 2019 was emission-free.  I&M has at its availability various sources of generation including 2,278 MW of nuclear generation in Michigan, 450 MW of purchased wind generation from Indiana, more than 22 MW of hydro generation in both states and approximately 15 MW of large-scale solar generation in both states. The company’s generation portfolio also includes 2,620 MW of coal-fueled generation in Indiana.


Schnee’ Garrett

Indiana Michigan Power Communications

(574) 283-1852



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