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 about $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!

COVID-19 Health & Safety Precautions: Due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic, please read the following carefully as you will be required to agree to the new COVID-19 volunteer safety standards and procedures BEFORE choosing a shift on the calendar.

  • All volunteers must be 14 years or older or at least 8 years old and accompanied by an adult family member. Family units are welcome.
  • Youth groups please note the adult to student ratios:
    Grades 4-8 – 4 students per 1 adult
    Grades 9-12 – 9 students per 1 adult
  • Group registrations are allowed.
  • All volunteers will be required to wear a face mask upon arrival and throughout their shift. Please bring your own face mask.
  • To increase social distancing, training is occurring at the packaging table.
  • We’ve decreased our capacity over 50%.
  • If you need to cancel your shift, please let us know ASAP to allow your spot to be filled by another volunteer.


Please stay home if:

  • you or anyone in your household has experienced the following symptoms in the past 72 hours: runny nose, sore throat, cough, headache and/or body aches, nausea and/or vomiting, diarrhea, fever and/or chills, or
  • you have a new loss of sense of smell and/or taste or sinus congestion or have been in contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days.



  • Hand sanitizer will be provided before each shift.
  • Please remain as far apart as possible at all times if you come from separate households.
  • 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 open packaging events but encouraged as ingredients are not donated to us and are purchased by donations. You may donate online, or you may donate during a packaging shift using debit/credit cards, cash or check. The average volunteer uses approximately $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 purse, backpack, jewelry and beverage in the car. You will receive a hairnet and beard net (if needed) at the Patty Cownie Packaging Center.

Are masks and gloves required?

Volunteers will be required to bring a clean mask from home. Gloves will be provided to food handlers. Masks must be worn at all times during packaging shifts.

May I sign up as a group?


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.

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