The World Food Prize Foundation

October 2015

Meal packaging events come with built-in benefits for volunteers

The Meals from the Heartland Annual Hunger Fight is a four-day event in downtown Des Moines, the largest of its kind in the nation. Every year since 2008, thousands of volunteers from across Iowa come together to package millions of meals to alleviate hunger in Iowa and around the world.

Meal packaging events coordinated by Meals from the Heartland come with three built-in benefits for volunteers:

  • Teamwork is built into the meal packaging experience.
  • Volunteers can immediately see tangible results from their efforts.
  • Meal packaging events are discreet commitments, especially important for beginning volunteers and those with uncertain and irregular schedules.

Nate and Erin Reagen have been volunteering at the Annual Hunger Fight for the past six years. Asked about volunteering at the Annual Hunger Fight, Nate emphasizes the visibility of tangible results:

"It's just so exciting to see all of the production. In my role, I help move finished pallets, so I am watching box after box stack up. Soon, I'm pushing thousands of meals across the floor, thinking about who in the world is going to get these meals. It's physical labor and also very emotionally very rewarding."

Nate's wife Erin emphasizes the benefits of teamwork:

"In so many volunteer roles, you feel underutilized. But not here [at Meals from the Heartland]. And I love that I can take my kids with me because I can't take them to the other side of the world. Watching the video helps us all realize the need and what we're able to do about it. The kids can participate and they feel good about having a real job to help feed the hungry. I know that experience, being a part of that process, will impact them throughout their life."

In addition to the Annual Hunger Fight, Meals from the Heartland hosts packaging events at its packaging center and at mobile packaging events all over Iowa in schools, churches, businesses and community centers. In 2014, more than 47,000 volunteers packaged over 10.6 million meals. At least one third of their volunteers are school-aged children.

Meals from the Heartland works with distribution partners both locally and globally to ensure the food gets to where it is needed most. Locally, Meals from the Heartland works with the Des Moines Area Religious Council (DMARC), the Food Bank of Iowa and other food pantries to distribute food to Iowans.

Convoy of Hope is Meals from the Heartland’s primary international distribution partner and meals are delivered through programs like Many Hands for Haiti, based in Pella, Iowa, and Blessman Ministries, based in Urbandale, with missions in South Africa.

To get involved you can contact Meals from the Heartland at www.mealsfromtheheartland.org

We are grateful to Katie McDermott and Susan Bunz at Meals from the Heartland for their collaboration on this newsletter article. We are also grateful to Ted Schierer and JETT for his recent observations on volunteerism and meal packaging events.

© 2020 The World Food Prize Foundation. All Rights Reserved.