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Feed the starving

DMACC volunteers package 25,000 meals for Meals from the Heartland

The Newton DMACC Conference Center was buzzing with activity Tuesday afternoon as students, staff and faculty came together to help those in need.

More than 100 volunteers gathered at the Newton campus, donning plastic gloves and hairnets to help with the Meals from the Heartland packaging event. In honor of Newton campus’ 25th anniversary, the goal was to package 25,000 meals.

Nicole Kalkwalf, an academic advisor and student activities coordinator at DMACC, said the college held a similar packaging event two years ago. The success of the event made it something they wanted to bring to Newton again. The fact they could tie into the anniversary celebration was an added bonus.

“We thought this would be great timing for another event,” Kalkwalf said. “This campus has received much from the community the past 25 years, and this is a way for students, staff and faculty to give back and celebrate.”

Meals from the Heartland is a West Des Moines-based nonprofit organization made up of volunteers who package meals to be delivered to those in need in Iowa, nationwide and worldwide. The meals packaged at the event will be sent to those in need both nationally and internationally.

Joel O’Dell, hunger fight manager for Meals from the Heartland, was on hand Tuesday to help facilitate the meal packaging event. Meals from the Heartland has been in operation since 2008. In that time, the group has packaged more than 130 million meals.

“Our mission is to empower people to save the starving. Look how many people are involved in our program; just today we’re going to have a little more than 100 volunteers help package 25,000 meals,” O’Dell said.

The organization’s goal is to package 25 million meals in 2019. That goal will only be possible with the help of the thousands of volunteers. The food will be sent to 16 countries, including the U.S. O’Dell said most of the meals are dedicated to children feeding programs around the world as well as to disaster relief efforts.

O’Dell said one of the main pillars to Meals from the Heartland is education and “inspiring the next generation to figure out how we are going to feed 9 billion people by the year 2050.

“We are all going to have to work together and come up with new innovative ideas,” he said.

Meals from the Heartland is proudly Iowa based, O’Dell said. Many of the products being used for meal packaging are produced in Iowa, with the bags being printed in Newton.

The DMACC volunteers were packaging what O’Dell called the “international formula.” Working in groups of eight, each team was tasked with measuring just the right about of food to be in each bag. It starts with a soy protein, then a veggie-vitamin blend topped with rice. Each bag is weighed to be sure the proper amount is included, then it is vacuum sealed, labeled and packed in boxes.

Kalkwalf was pleased with the willingness of participants to come together once again and give back to those in need. DMACC has held packaging events at other campuses with measurable success.  It is the main reason why she wanted to organize another event in Newton.

“We thought this would be a great way to give back to others in honor of all of that support and encouragement we’ve received. We will be able to work together; students, staff, faculty and building partners to achieve the goal of packaging 25,000 meals,” Kalkwalf said.

DMACC Executive Vice President of College Operations Stan Jensen was in attendance Tuesday to help out with the packaging event.

“We’re delighted to be able to help Meals from the Heartland and to see all of the students and faculty get involved,” Jensen said. “I’m glad to be apart of a program that helps a lot of people.”

The meal packaging event is just one of the many ways DMACC has celebrated its milestone year in Newton. The college plans to continue to celebrate throughout the rest of the semester with plans for a final event during the Fourth of July parade.

Contact Pam Pratt at 641-792-3121 ext. 6530 or

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