Five-day event opens today aiming to package four-million meals for the hungry

DES MOINES — This morning marks the start of the 16th annual effort to package millions of meals to help feed the hungry in Iowa, across the US, and in countries around the globe.

Meals from the Heartland launches the massive mission with today’s corporate contest, where Hy-Vee spokeswoman Nola Aigner Davis says dozens of volunteers will be pitching in to assemble the meals in plastic bags, which are then packed into cardboard boxes.  “This will feature a meal packing competition and we have more than 30 company teams, which is the most we’ve ever had,” Aigner Davis says. “During this competition, teams will need to package two boxes of food as fast as they can.”

That event, the One Step Challenge, is being held at the MidAmerican Energy RecPlex in West Des Moines. The larger “Hunger Fight” event runs tomorrow through Saturday as many thousands of volunteers will be packaging meals at Hy-Vee Hall in downtown Des Moines. The goal is to produce and package four-million meals by the end of the day on Saturday.  “If there is a team that would like to register for one of the two-hour meal packaging events between August 30th and September 2nd,” she says, “they can visit to sign up for a two-hour packaging shift.”

There are two basic meals that will be assembled, a Hearty Pack, with rice, soy protein, vitamins, minerals and dried vegetables; and a Taco Mac, which contains enriched pasta, soy flour, and vitamin- and mineral-fortified cheese mix.   Aigner Davis says, “They work to put together a meal that is satisfying but also is very protein-rich, to make sure an individual eating this meal gets the right combination of proteins, vitamins and vegetables to make it a very hearty and healthy meal.”

Individual and group registrations are being welcomed for shifts tomorrow through Saturday. Hairnets and gloves will be provided.

Since 2008, Meals from the Heartland has provided more than 183-million meals to the hungry in Iowa, across the U.S., and around the world.