The World Food Prize Foundation

May 2015

Interstate 35 Middle School students fill backpacks with food for community members in need

The Interstate 35 middle school student council recently created a local affiliate of the Feeding America Backpacks for Hunger campaign to reduce the impacts of hunger on students and families in their rural school district. In its first 12 weeks, the program served 1,217 meals to 311 people. The full story is available online on page 14 of the March 2015 Roadrunner Report.

For more information about the Interstate 35 program, please contact Ms. Sue Meggers at For more information about backpack programs in Iowa, please contact Mr. Cory Berkenes, Director of the Iowa Food Bank Association, at or 515-288-3234.


Workforce development program quadruples wages, puts $3 million back into Iowa economy

It is well known that good jobs are among the most powerful antidotes to hunger. In 2011, the AMOS coalition of congregations and community leaders created Project Iowa to improve workforce development efforts and impact systemic change in central Iowa. 

Since then, Project Iowa has provided skills training to 201 unemployed and underemployed people, 70% of whom found employment with local businesses in career-track, livable-wage jobs.

The average hourly wage of a Project Iowa graduate is $14.34, an increase from an average of $3.56 per hour before they completed the workforce training program. Initial estimates suggest that the increase in employment and wages among their graduates has put approximately 3 million dollars back into the Iowa economy.

Project Iowa continues to accomplish its mission through grassroots connections, collaborative relationships with business partners, and extensive services and coaching for participants during training and through one year of employment.

They have also made some significant changes since we wrote about their programs in February of 2014:

  • Project Iowa’s new Incumbent Workers program works with businesses like Kemin Industries and nonprofits like Central Iowa Shelter and Services to provide customized curriculum that develops the personal and professional skills of existing employees. Intended outcomes include increased job satisfaction, retention and internal promotion rates; improved workplace functioning and reduced costs of external recruitment. In some cases, new Project Iowa graduates may be hired for positions vacated by an internally promoted incumbent worker.
  • Based on feedback from their first two classes of graduates, Project Iowa modified their curriculum offered and added a new administrative and customer service skill track for participants whose strengths are outside of the advanced manufacturing and welding skill track.
  • Project Iowa continues to develop their VIP curriculum and is preparing to roll out a 3-4 day institute-based training model to share their experiences and teaching methods with organizations across the state. They anticipate the first institutes being offered this fall or winter.

Keys to Project Iowa’s success include:

  • Responsiveness to feedback and an emphasis on learning from participants and partners
  • A heavy focus on documentation, monitoring and evaluation, to ensure that their claims are accurate and that their curriculum is valid and trustworthy
  • A paced and methodical expansion, making sure that their model is sound before adding new programs or communities and always retaining time for learning and documentation

For more information about Project Iowa, please contact Ms. Mary Schlader at or 515-280-1274.

Photo credits: Top: Cover of the March 2015 Roadrunner Report, Bottom: Mr. Tommy English, Project IOWA participant

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