Prison Inmates Help Feed the Hungry

Correctional Facility

Meals from the Heartland was honored to participate in a first ever hunger fight in a correctional facility. On Saturday September 26th, Fort Dodge Correctional Facility inmates teamed with the Fort Dodge Noon Sertoma to package over 69,000 mac and cheese meals. These meals will all be distributed in the Fort Dodge area through the Sertoma Back Pack Buddies program and through local food pantries.

Over 150 inmates participated in the event and also contributed $5,000 out of their prison earnings to buy ingredients. The top prison pay per hour is 45 cents. Many thanks to the Fort Dodge Noon Sertoma for their leadership in organizing and funding the remainder of this event!

Pageant Winner Inspires Others to Feed the World

WebsizedWe continue to be blown away by some of our youngest supporters! America’s U.S. Miss Iowa Tween queen, Paige Hilgerson (age 9), is using her passion and position to raise money, pack meals and spread awareness of local and global hunger. For years, Paige has packaged meals with her family, and her speech featuring Meals from the Heartland earned first place at the state pageant’s spokesmodel speech competition this past fall. So far, Paige has raised more than $100 dollars and handed out Meals from the Heartland M&M fundraising tubes at this summer’s national pageant competition, encouraging other state and regional queens to help. The tubes hold $14 in quarters, funding ingredients and supplies for 70 meals each!

Paige’s story is one of many that play an important role in changing the lives of food-insecure children and families in Iowa and around the world. And these efforts are at the heart of our Annual Hunger Fight $14 for 14 Challenge.

The $14 for 14 Challenge
The Annual Hunger Fight is just around the corner (August 26-29) and we’re asking all of our hunger fighters to take on a challenge like never before. Save and raise $14 a day for 14 days and you can provide nearly 1,000 of the anticipated 5 million meals packaged at Hy-Vee Hall in downtown Des Moines! Car washes, bake sales, saving money from coffee drinks and restaurants are just a few of the many ways family, friends and teams can reach the goal together – read on for more creative fundraising ideas!

Sincere thanks to Paige (3rd runner up at nationals!) and all of our dedicated supporters. How will you take on this summer’s challenge? Share your $14 for 14 story with us!

The meals have arrived!

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Today, our new container arrived with Meals from the Heartland food for our new distribution center. There were some happy kiddos on the ground. And yes, that container on the truck will be loaded OFF that truck and set on our ground… somehow. Will inform you how it gets done later. 

Do you want to help fill up the next truck? We are inviting students, parents, family and all community members, ages five and above, to volunteer. 

You can also just donate helping us with preparation of packaging nutritious meals that will help alleviate suffering caused by hunger in our community and around the world!

Volunteer Spotlight: Stu and Becky Shepard


Retired from the insurance world, Stu Shepard and wife Becky are core volunteers at Meals from the Heartland, helping with all facets of packaging events from set-up to tear-down and everything in between. One experience that Stu will always remember was an event at Merrill Middle School where Stu was inspired by the kids’ eagerness to help others in need.

“Watching the kids light up while serving amplified my desire to see this mission continue, grow and develop,” says Stu. Since then, he and Becky have helped at countless packaging events held at churches, schools, community centers and the annual event downtown.Stu Shepard (web-sized)

The couple has also personally delivered our meals in South Africa while on a mission’s trip with Blessman Ministries, further increasing their passion to feed the hungry. On their trip, the couple helped take meals to a church where they were prepared and distributed to kids and families lined up for seemingly miles. For most of them, Stu and Becky learned, it was their only meal for the entire day.

“Seeing the need in those children’s eyes is life-changing,” he says. Witnessing firsthand the needs of the hungry and the compassion of Iowans, Stu wants to help create awareness of the mission throughout the nation. He is thrilled that Meals from the Heartland was recently honored as one of USA Today’s National Make a Difference Day Award recipients.

For Stu, no task is too small at Meals from the Heartland. Putting together boxes, washing dishes, checking people in, helping shift transitions and other behind-the-scenes tasks many packagers may not realize happens to make their event possible. Stu encourages others to take volunteering at Meals from the Heartland to the next level.

“Come early and stay late,” says Stu. “That’s my motto.”

If you would like to volunteer at Meals from the Heartland beyond packaging, please contact us today at We are always in need of dedicated volunteers like Stu and Becky!

“Service to others knows NO disability”

Vision impaired clients, staff and volunteers from IRIS (Iowa Radio Reading Information Service for the Blind and Print Handicapped) brought their giving spirit to our warehouse on Thursday to package.  Their motto “Service to others knows NO disability” was apparent as they rocked the packing floor!  Make sure to listen for the “Go”! For info on this amazing company visit


Check out our new truck wrap.

Check out our new truck wrap. We would like to give out a special thank you to Sigler Companies of Ames for designing our new truck and Jon and Kevin Gyldenvand with Kenny & Gyl company for printing off the design and installing it on our truck.

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Leaders of the Pack Needed for Packaging Events!

Meals from the Heartland is always looking for volunteers to serve in essential roles that help packaging events run smoothly and efficiently. We’re so thankful for our current team of dedicated support volunteers and are looking to grow it! Read on to learn how you can take serving at Meals from the Heartland to the next level.

Leader of the Pack

A supervisory role, leaders of the pack are familiar with the layout of packaging room including supplies, ingredients, labels, etc. and are able manage events from 20 to 120 packagers, depending on the event. Leaders will train other support volunteers, are responsible for making sure packaging tables are stocked, ready for the event and put away at the end of the night. This role is essential in ensuring we can host as many hunger fights as possible, allowing us to spread out time and energy of our staff and hardworking volunteers.

Meet a few of our current leaders!

Two of our Leaders of the Pack are friends and co-volunteers Pam (pictured, left) and Donna (pictured, right).

Pam and Donna (newsletter) - Email Size“I’m here because I just can’t imagine what it would be like to be hungry every day, not knowing where your meals are coming from,” says Pam. “It feels great being able to directly help with that need.” Pam has been helping feed the hungry in Iowa and around the world since first joining the Annual Hunger Fight planning committee five years ago.

“And I spend my time volunteering at Meals from the Heartland because it’s an awesome cause that’s instantly rewarding,” says Donna of her six years volunteering at Meals from the Heartland. “You see results and the benefits of your efforts right away. There’s nothing quite like it.”

And yes, all Leaders of the Pack get their very own neon-yellow T-shirt (you know you want one)! If you’re interested in volunteering beyond packaging, but don’t feel quite ready for a supervisory role, we also have several support positions available such as event greeters, floor support and more. Contact us today if you’d like to learn more!

As the Earth Shakes, the World Steps In

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It’s unbelievable how one day children and families can be going about their daily lives, studying, playing and working, while the next entire communities are flattened and thousands are left homeless and hungry, wondering how they survived and who of their family and friends were also spared…

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Tens of thousands have been left homeless and are currently living in tents in Nepal. (Photo courtesy of Convoy of Hope)

Navigating Disaster Relief in Nepal
The tragedy continues to unfold in Nepal, one of Asia’s smallest, poorest countries, due to the massive 7.8 and 7.3 magnitude earthquakes that recently rocked the nation. We’re so thankful for passionate, on-the-ground partners like Convoy of Hope, that are working tirelessly to give hope and relief to the 450,000+ displaced, 19,000+ injured and countless mourning children and families of the 8,200+ killed in the quakes. At Meals from the Heartland, we are in close communication with Convoy of Hope to see how our meals will aid critical disaster relief plans for the shaken nation.

We anticipate that your meals, packaged at our facility in West Des Moines and around Central Iowa, will reach the earthquake victims in Nepal. Convoy of Hope’s team is currently assessing the situation and working with in-country leaders concerning logistics to provide relief. As essential infrastructure begins to heal, our meals can then begin to be shipped in. The country’s recovery plan will be long-term, and our meals will likely support ongoing feeding initiatives in the country, long after the earthquakes cease. Time will tell as needs are made clear, and we will work to keep all of our volunteers and donors updated on those efforts as we are able.

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Locals help dig through the rubble caused by the massive earthquakes. (Photo courtesy of Convoy of Hope)

What You Can Do to Help
In honor of the Nepalese children and families in need, as well as other hurting communities in Iowa and around the world, you can pack meals during open packaging shifts at our facility in West Des Moines or host a private hunger fight of your own.

Please also consider helping fund the meals by donating online or sending tax-deductible checks to 357 Lincoln Street, West Des Moines, Iowa 50265. Since our meals cost just 20 cents each to package, any and all gifts truly make an impact on local and global hunger.

For ongoing updates in Nepal, you can visit Convoy of Hope’s website and Facebook page. Thank you for your compassion and partnership in alleviating hunger for the hurting world around us!

Read on to learn more about the Nutrition and Distribution of our meals.

Introducing Greg, our new Director of Operations!

Greg - WebsizedGreg DeHaai has been hired as Meals from the Heartland’s Director of Operations to oversee packaging events at our facility in West Des Moines and around Central Iowa. Coordinating inventory for ingredients and supplies is no small task, considering the millions of meals thousands of volunteers package every year. He’ll be integral in keeping efficiency of highest priority so we can package as many meals as possible, while being good stewards of the gifts God has given us.

The University of Northern Iowa graduate has worked in the computer world and the medical device industry for the past 23 years. From these experiences, Greg will utilize his ability to multitask and work with teams and databases of all shapes and sizes. He’s excited to help grow and develop the ministry, including reaching our 2015 goal to package 15 million meals for food-insecure children and families in Iowa and around the world.

“I came on board because I believe in the purpose and mission,” says Greg of his decision to join the team in April. “I’m amazed at how communities rally to fight hunger. Work groups, churches, schools — I love how packaging events bring people from all walks of life together for a common cause.”

We’re excited to have Greg with us; for questions about hosting a hunger fight at our facility or a location of your choice, you can email Greg at

Banderas de Amor – Feeding the Hungry in Guatemala

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Driving an hour and a half up steep, barely driveable mountain roads, the team from Guatemala Landing Zone delivers meals to a remote village school in Chitucan, Guatemala. There, an ongoing record is kept of each child’s name, age and weight, so the team can check back every three months on the children’s progress.

“When you get to ‘the ends of the earth’, that’s where Chitucan is,” says Mary Purvis, founder and director of Guatemala Landing Zone. “And if you bring Meals from the Heartland, you will be welcomed with open arms.”

Victor and Isabela are two of hundreds of villagers in Pacux, Guatemala, who also receive Meals from the Heartland. Surviving on just $53 a month, the couple truly relies on the rice-and-soy meals as one of their main sources of sustenance, as well as the fruit, tortillas and drinks the feeding program provides. The couple takes their meals home, sharing one for lunch and the other at suppertime. On Fridays, they save the second meal so they have something to eat on Saturday.

The Banderas de Amor (Banners of Love) feeding program is aptly named for its compassion and declaration to make sure as many children and families as possible do not have to go to bed and wake up hungry every day. We’re so thankful for dedicated, on-the-ground partners like the Guatemala Landing Zone to deliver the meals you package to those in need.


Loading up the truck, preparing for the long, bumpy rides to the villages.


Meals from the Heartland rice-soy meals served in Chitucan, Guatemala.

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The Guatemala Landing Zone team weight checking school children in the village of Chitucan.

Victor and Isabela

Victor and Isabela, a couple that relies on Meals from the Heartland daily.

Read on to learn more about our local and international distribution partners!


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