What’s billed as the nation’s largest volunteer food packaging effort is getting underway this morning at Hy-Vee Hall in downtown Des Moines. Dave Bradley, executive director of Meals from the Heartland, says each year, the project has grown a little more ambitious in its outreach.
“We’re hoping to attract 15,000 volunteers and we’re already slightly over 14,000 so we’re well on our way,” Bradley says. “This will be the 7th annual Meals from the Heartland annual Hunger Fight. Our goal is to package 5,000,000 meals over the next four days.” The packaging of meals will take place daily through Saturday.
Meals packaged during this event will be shipped to children and families in need internationally as well as locally through the Springfield, Illinois-based group, Convoy of Hope. “Primarily, these will go to 12 different countries that support their children’s feeding initiative, such as Haiti, El Salvador, the Philippines, Uganda, South Africa,” Bradley says. “Also, each year, we distribute over half-a-million meals right here in the state of Iowa.”
Tonight, more than 1,100 Iowa high school students will package meals exclusively during the DuPont Pioneer Student Challenge. Over the four days, volunteers will help out who are as young as elementary schoolers all the way through senior citizens. Each package assembled at the event can feed a family of six. “In each meal bag, there’s 10 ounces of rice, 10 ounces of textured soy protein — and this year, we’re getting that from Cargill in Cedar Rapids, so in all likelihood, the soy is grown here in Iowa — and then a couple tablespoons of dried vegetables and a vitamin and mineral packet.”
Meals from the Heartland launched its first mass meal packaging event in September 2008. Last year, the program packaged more than 8.6-million meals through the Annual Hunger Fight and Mobile Hunger Fights held throughout Iowa and at its packaging center in West Des Moines. Since 2008, the organization has packaged more than 40-million meals. Tax deductible donations can be made to help buy raw materials. All volunteers get training and there are still several hundred positions open.
Time slots and registration can be completed online at: www.mealsfromtheheartland.org