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Think globally, act locally

Locals to combat global hunger during Pay It Forward week

Published: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 10:53 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 1:59 p.m. CDT
More than 15,000 volunteers helped Meals from the Heartland package 5,141,070 meals to help combat world hunger during their annual Hunger Fight August 28-31 at Hy-Vee Hall in Des Moines.

Local businesses, organizations and individuals are paying it forward next week in a big way.

Southwestern Community College is hosting a “mobile hunger fight” to package meals 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 23 in the SWCC gymnasium. This event is to help families, both locally and around the world, combat hunger through a grass-roots program called “Meals from the Heartland.”

“Meals from the Heartland is an organization that packages food to not only be distributed in our region, but in the U.S., as well as other countries that have the need or are food insecure,” said Beth Kulow, dean of student services at Southwestern Community College.

Kulow said the volunteer driven effort benefits people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

Big impact

Meals from the Heartland originated from a month-long packaging event during Lent in 2007 in West Des Moines, where more than 1 million meals were packaged. By 2012, more than 3 million meals were packaged by volunteers and continues to climb.

Kulow said their goal this year is to package 60,000 meals.

“I was slightly nervous when we decided to do such a large event,” Kulow said. “But, we are going to be really close to that. If we have a few more teams we will certainly meet that goal.”

According to Meals from the Heartland officials, in 2013, more than 22 semi-truck loads of supplies were transported to Hy-Vee Hall in Des Moines.

Each meal bag packed by volunteers is enough food to serve six people. In seven days, more than 12,000 volunteers in Iowa packaged 18,500 corrugated boxes containing more than 4 million non-perishable meals.

Call to community

“This is a community wide event,” Kulow said.

Kulow said Southwestern Community College staff, students and volunteers are joined by team of volunteers from Greater Regional Medical Center, Bunn-O-Matic, Crestmoor Golf Club, Edward Jones and local banks, churches and care centers from Union and Adair counties.

“We are still accepting teams,” Kulow said. “We will always make room.”

To help, Kulow invites businesses, community groups, organizations and families to form their own volunteer team of 8 to 10 members to help package meals for an hour or two. During this time, an average of 2,000 meals per hour will be packaged.

In order to fund this event, teams are encouraged to seek donations to pay for the meals they will be packaging. The cost per hour to package 2,000 meals is approximately $400.

Kulow said individuals wanting to help, but that don’t necessarily have a team are welcome to participate.

“We will find a place for them that is helpful,” Kulow said.

To register your team for Meals from the Heartland, contact Kulow at (641) 782-1413 or kulow@swcciowa.edu.

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