At the Patty Cownie Packaging Center, each volunteer will package about 540 meals in a 2-hour shift. That is equivalent to feeding two starving kids for an entire year! Come by yourself or invite your family, friends or coworkers. Please consider bringing any size donation as you will use over $100 worth of ingredients during your shift (ingredients are purchased by Meals from the Heartland, not donated). Help support our mission and keep bellies full. We are better together!


  • Hand sanitizer and hair nets will be provided before each shift.
  • Food handlers will be provided gloves which must be worn throughout your shift.

General Packager FAQs

Do I have to pay to package meals?

Donations are not required at our Patty Cownie Packaging Center, but are encouraged as ingredients are not donated to us. You may donate online, or you may donate during a packaging shift using debit/credit cards, cash or check. The average volunteer uses over $100 worth of ingredients during a 2-hour shift.

May I bring children?

All volunteers must be 14 years or older or at least 8 years old and accompanied by an adult.

What is the adult to student ratio if I want to bring a group of students?

Grades 4-8 – 4 students per 1 adult
Grades 9-12 – 9 students per 1 adult

How should I dress?

Wear casual and comfortable clothes and shoes as you may get dusty, and you will be standing on a concrete floor. We recommend you leave your backpack, jewelry, and beverage in your vehicle. Small lockers are available for purses and wallets. You will receive a hairnet and beard net (if needed) at the Patty Cownie Packaging Center.

Are masks and gloves required?

Face masks are optional and are NOT provided. Gloves will be provided to food handlers.

What if I’m not feeling well?

Please stay home if you’re not feeling well or have tested positive for COVID 19 in the past 5 days.

May I sign up as a group?


What meals will I be packaging?

During your volunteer shift, you will be packaging either:

  • Hearty Pack small bag meals,
  • Hearty Pack – Bulk packaging* or
  • Taco Mac (taco flavored macaroni and cheese) small bag meals

*Please note that the bulk packaging procedure could involve more strenuous activity than our regular packaging procedure, such as lifting up to 25 pounds. Please let a staff member know if you have any restrictions or concerns.

Please see for more information on our meals.

May I bring my service animal?

Yes, but … As a food packaging organization, it is our policy that no service animal be allowed in any area where ingredients are being packaged. Service animals will be allowed in common areas where labeling or box making duties generally take place. View Service Animal Policy for our written policy.

What if I’m unable to attend my scheduled shift?

If you need to cancel your shift, please let us know ASAP to allow your spot to be filled by another volunteer.

We package meals every week at our West Des Moines Packaging Center. Join us for a 2-hour shift!