February 04, 2023

DMACC volunteers package 20,000 meals

Meals from the Heartland visits Newton

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Hundreds of eager volunteers slipped on hairnets and plastic gloves Monday afternoon at Newton DMACC campus and packaged 20,000 meals to help fight hunger.

Meals from the Heartland is a nonprofit organization made up of volunteers who package meals to be delivered to those in need in Iowa, nationwide and worldwide.

It was the first time the West Des Moines-based organization visited Newton. Mike Frandsen, a hunger fight assistant, said the meals packaged will all be going to Puerto Rico to help feed hurricane victims and disaster relief.

“We started 10 years ago and the cool thing is we have packaged 100 million meals,” Frandsen said. “So we are breaking records every day.”

Frandsen said the organization will have sent 7 million meals to hurricane disaster relief in Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida.

“It’s really cool to work in groups like this because we have 10 staff members,” Frandsen said. “Without volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do — we will be somewhere close to 60,000 volunteers this year.”

Frandsen said he enjoys getting new events and seeing new people get involved.

“It’s a very eccentric motivator because, at the end of an hour, they get to see how many meals they’ve boxed up,” Frandsen said. “The first shift of 60 people packaged about 13,000 meals.”

Frandsen said the last group will finish up the event with reaching 20,000 meals into 116 boxes. Just one package feeds a family of six.

“So a group of 10 in one line will usually do about 2,000 meals in one interval,” Frandsen said. “After today we will load everything up and the meals from today will be ready for convoy at the end of this week and they will be sent there within the next few weeks.”

Nicole Kalkwalf, an academic advisor and student activities coordinator at DMACC said she works directly with the student activity group and they plan an event at least once a year.

“We decided to incorporate with the nursing club and the court reporting club because they like to do service projects as well,” Kalkwalf said. “We all combined forces for the bigger impact we can make.”

Kalkwalf said she thought it was especially unique that local students were involved in this project because all of the meals will be shipped across the country to help hurricane victims.

“I think students find this as a great way to interact with students they might not talk to on a normal basis or in their classes,” Kalkwalf said. “It’s a fun way to get involved and meet people and also give back to their communities and their worlds.”

Frandsen said the organization is packaging meals five days a week, and anyone who is interested in volunteering can participate.

“It’s definitely something they can sign up for,” Frandsen said. “The more people the better because many people make light work.”

Contact Kayla Singletary at 641-792-3121 ext. 6533 or ksingletary@newtondailynews.com