The World Food Prize Foundation

January 2016

Secretary Vilsack, Central College fight hunger through MLK Day program

 “Our tiny ripples of hope today, added to all the others, can reduce hunger and malnutrition. We like to think that change happens dramatically. In reality, change happens by people doing the right thing one day at a time.” – Secretary Tom Vilsack

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack joined students and volunteers at Central College to package over 7,000 meals for the hungry this Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The Secretary’s remarks emphasized how continuous acts of service by ordinary people make the United States a great nation. Meals were distributed to hungry Iowans through partnerships with community food pantries Central Iowa Shelter and Services, and Jasper County Veterans Affairs.

The meal packaging was part of an annual MLK Day of service at Central College, which also included a lecture by Diane Dillon-Ridgley, renowned environmentalist and human rights advocate, who emphasized the interconnectedness of environmental, economic and social justice in the thought and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Planning for the day of service began in November and included a diversity of partners. The Central College Center for Community-Based Learning, Office of Intercultural Student Life, and Office of Global Sustainability Education collaborated to organize and host the day of service. The Outreach Program provided training and materials for the meal packaging event, which was funded by a grant from Iowa Campus Compact.

The organizers emphasize the following keys to success:

Work with partners. For this event, we relied a great deal on Outreach since we hadn’t done this particular kind of service project before. We are always indebted to National Service programs in our state: For this project at least five AmeriCorps VISTAs played crucial roles in planning and/or facilitation, and many other AmeriCorps members volunteered that day. Iowa Campus Compact is a wonderful partner for colleges and universities who want to be involved with community.

Value community voice:  We believe it’s best practice to allow community members to define their own need. In this case, we knew from our relationships with community partners who work with food security that community members need convenient, healthy meals. For food security initiatives as well as other endeavors, we work with partners who have ongoing relationships with those who will ultimately be receiving the food or other outcome of service. A collaborative approach meets community needs and also helps students understand that expertise resides in the community as well as in the classroom.

Make your project accessible: Make sure you hold the event in a facility that’s accessible for everyone. If you’re serving refreshments, make sure you include food that fits a variety of dietary needs. 

For more information about the event or to explore collaboration with Central College, please contact Ms. Cheri Doane at 515-628-5332 or

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