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1 million meals

By Staff | Apr 29, 2015

-Farm news photos by Larry Kershner FOUR FFA’ERS joke with each other while assembling food packages for Meals from the Heartland during the state FFA convention. They were part of 15,000 Iowa FFA’ers, who worked on 12 food lines during the three-day convention. From front left, clockwise, are Tyler Waddington, of Hampton; Josiah Ragsdale, of Hampton; Jamin Manus, of Belmond; and Levi Buchholtz, of Belmond.


AMES – One million meals.

That four-year goal was met last week at the Iowa FFA Convention in Ames.

During the three-day event, 15,000 FFA’ers volunteered their time to work 12 assembly lines in Hilton Coliseum to bag 250,000 Meals from the Heartland food packages every year during the past four years.

Levi Buccholtz, of Belmond, was adding rice to the packages. As the chapter vice president of the Belmond-Klemme FFA chapter, this was his fourth year on the project.

IOWA FFA’ERS fill the arena floor of Hilton Coliseum in Ames during the 2015 state FFA Convention. FFA chapter members volunteered their time to help assemble food packages for Meals from the Heartland, based in West Des Moines. This is the fourth year for the project during the convention, with a four-goal of packaging 1 million meals.

“We bring a lot of members to state,” Buccholtz said. “The more we have, the more bags we can fill.”

Each meal contains rice, soy, dried vegetables and vitamin packets.

Debbie Barkela, the B-K FFA advisor, said, “This is something we can do to give back. We do a lot of community service projects and this is just one more way to help people out.”

Sarah DeBour, avisor to the Tall Corn FFA chapter, which includes ag students from Coulter, Alexander, Latimer, Dumont and Hampton, said, “This exposes the kids to to food insecurity and the needs of the world.

“It’s not just at home.”

The million-meal goal was confirmed by Joel O’Dell, the hunger fight manager, for Meals from the Heartland.

“These are hunger fights,” O’Dell said, “and it’s a losing battle, but we’ll continue to reach out.”

Meals from the Heartland originated in West Des Moines as a food packing event led by a church. It has since expanded into a year-long effort to find volunteers to help fund and assemble food packages that are distributed throughout the U.S. and other countries.

O’Dell said there are just four full-time employees.

To meet its annual goal of 15 million meals, he said, “we need thousands of volunteers.”

He said all the ingredients are sourced in the Midwest including rice from Missouri, soy from Cedar Rapids, vitamins from a sister organization, called Outreach, in Union; dried vegetables and bags from Wisconsin; and boxes from Minnesota.

O’Dell said Meals from the Heartland can bring hunger fights anywhere around the state, if there is a sponsoring organization to pay for the food package ingredients, roughly 20 cents per meal.

The 2015 FFA convention hunger fight was underwritten by Growmark and the Iowa FFA Foundation, which funded $25,000 each.

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