The opening day of the Iowa State Fair included a massive effort to help feed starving children. Around 1,500 volunteers signed up to the project to package a quarter-million meals in 11 hours.
The meals consist of a scoop of rice, a measure of soy protein, a spoonful of dried vegetables and a packet of vitamins. This is the first time Meals from the Heartland has set up an assembly line during the State Fair. The charity’s director, Dave Bradley, says the packages are bound for Haiti.
“You basically boil it in water for 20 minutes and it becomes a rice casserole,” Bradley said. The charity is “a good fit” for the State Fair, according to Fair manager Gary Slater.
“I think it is a tremendous, tremendous statement that we are the breadbasket of the world here in Iowa and we are helping those folks less fortunate than us,” Slater said. Lynnville farmer Randy Van Kooten is with the Iowa Soybean Foundation, a sponsor of the effort.
He’s seen the benefits first hand. “One of the things that touches me…is during a recent trip to Nicaragua, a young farmer who is a father of 6 kids wanted to put his arms around me and hug me because he said what we had done, we had saved his family, and with tears in his eyes — it really made me feel good about what we do,” Van Kooten said.
Not all the rations are destined for malnourished citizens of the world: Meals from the Heartland distributed nearly 400,000 servings to hungry Iowans last year. The Iowa State Fair opened Thursday in Des Moines and runs through August 18.