Iowa FFA’ers pack 250,000 meals
By LARRY KERSHNER
Farm News news editor
AMES – They saw the need, volunteered to roll up their collective sleeves and went to work.
Seven shifts , each consisting of 150 Iowa FFA members undertook the task of assembling 250,000 meals on Sunday and Monday, meals that are earmarked for delivery to Haiti.
The 84th Iowa FFA Leadership Conference got underway Sunday and finished Tuesday at the Hilton Coliseum in Ames.
FFA members worked in one-hour shifts to bag, tag and box the meals with the Iowa organization Meal from the Heartland.
The first shift went to work at 5 p.m. on Sunday and completed a total of 33,000 meals in the first hour.
That crew was replaced at roughly 6 p.m. with another 150 FFA’ers, who were subsequently followed Monday with five additional shifts designed to meet the quarter-million meal goal.
Food from the Heartland is a nonprofit organization based in West Des Moines. FFA clubs donated funds for purchasing the food items – $1.20 for six meals – and then chapter members volunteered to man the 15 tables in the coliseum’s arena to package the ingredients, consisting of rice, soy protein, vitamin powder and dried vegetables (carrot, onion, tomato, celery, cabbage and bell pepper.)
“Thanks to a partnership with the Iowa FFA Foundation, Iowa Food and Family Project, and Cargill, the Meals from the Heartland event will be a monumental leap towards fighting world hunger,” said Steven Brockshus, Northwest state vice president for Iowa FFA.
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey assisted in the efforts of packaging meals on Monday.
“Service is a key part of FFA,” said Marshal Hay, South Central state vice president. “FFA is an integral part of agricultural education…. instructors encourage students to take the knowledge and skills they have acquired in class and apply to FFA events.”
With just 33,000 meals packaged in the first shift, that translates into little more than 210,000 meals over the seven shifts, about one shift short of the quarter-million meal goal.
Nevertheless, Glen Robinson, of Des Moines, a member of the Food from the Heartland, said the goal was doable.
He said the first shift was a guide that organizers go by. They can encourage the FFA’ers to speed up or slow down as the process continued – especially if the projects gets ahead.
“We’d slow them down then,” Robinson said, “so that all those who want to help will have something to do.”
During Sunday’s second shift, 56 FFA members from the East Sac County chapter took their places at the tables. Jamie Highland, of Sac City, said the chapter members talked about the opportunity, decided it was a worthwhile venture, donated chapter funds for the event and volunteered to package meals.
Highland, who was scooping soy protein into the six-meal packages, said the members get a chance to see “we can help meet needs in more than just the community.
Brad Pickhinke, of Sac City, who was pouring dried vegetables into the parcels, agreed. “We’re expanding from the local community to one of a worldwide concern, We’re all into his together.”
Hope Brotherson, of Wall Lake was was measuring a formula of vitamins and micronutrients into each parcel, said, “We can help out. We have a lot of benefits here” and an event like this is a chance to share the benefits.
Lexie Berry, of Sac City, who held the bag under a funnel as each member added the contents, said she could see that “there is a lot than can get done with a lot of people and a little work involved.”
The FFA Chapter from Clarion-Goldfield rolled in Monday afternoon for the final shift.
Chapter member Erica Meinke, of Clarion, said she has done this type of work for another organization, Pure Helper, in Minnesota during her junior high school years.
“Goes for a good cause,” Meinke said. “Gets everybody going and helping out in ways we might not have been able to otherwise.”
Angela Charlson, Clarion-Goldfield FFA advisor, said she learned about the project during the district FFA contests. After a few of the students showed an interest, the chapter signed up to help.
In addition to packaging the meals, this FFA chapter was sticking around to help with clean up.
“We grow this food, so why not help and pack it?” Charlson asked. “Agriculture is made up of a lot of different areas with nutritionists being one of those areas and I’m sure nutritionists played a large part of this program.
“I hope this helps to get the kids thinking of community service and how to help out locally,” said Charlson.
Staff writer Kriss Nelson assisted with this report.
Contact Larry Kershner @ (515) 573-2141, ext. 453 or email@example.com.