Aldersgate UMC group packs 13,000 "Meals from the Heartland"

September 13, 2013

For more information on Meals from the Heartland see the organization’s website at

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Thirty-five members from Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Urbandale participated in Meals from the Heartland on August 29. It was the first time that Aldersgate took a group to the annual event to pack meals.

Meals from the Heartland is a non-profit organization comprised of volunteers who package meals for delivery to the hungry. Founded in Iowa in 2008, the group’s meals feed people around the world, as well as in Central Iowa and elsewhere in the United States. Packaging events are staffed by individuals, businesses, schools, churches and varying civic organizations.

Meals from the Heartland conducts Mobile Hunger Fights throughout the year as opportunities for organizations to host a packaging event at their respective location. The Annual Hunger Fight is the organization’s signature event. The 2013 annual event, in which Aldersgate took part, was held August 28-31 at Hy-Vee Hall in downtown Des Moines.

“Meals from the Heartland went well,” said Lisa Larson, youth coordinator for Aldersgate UMC. “People were very excited about participating.”

Aldersgate became involved by having received an email from Meals from the Heartland about the packaging event, Larson said. They checked the church calendar, found a time that did not conflict with other Aldersgate events, she said, and then publicized the event with the congregation.

“We had most of the confirmation students, a few other youth, and adults from the church participating,” said Larson.

Donning the signature hairnets that are part of the Meals from the Heartland packaging process, the Aldersgate group packed more than 13,000 servings during its two-hour shift.

In the assembly line process, vitamin packets, scoops of soy, dried vegetables and rice are put in bags. Each bag is then weighed. If the bag is too heavy some rice is removed, and if it is too light, a little rice is added. After bags meet the weight criteria, the bags are then sealed.

Each bag contains six meals, and 36 bags are packed in each box that will be distributed to those in need.

The Aldersgate group also learned about hunger in Iowa and around the world, also part of the event.

Meals from the Heartland shipments have been distributed to locations in Iowa, New Mexico, Haiti, South Africa, Honduras, El Salvador, Philippines and other countries.

Amber Yeutsy, 11, was among those who participated in the August 29 Aldersgate shift at for Meals from the Heartland.

“I have always wanted to make a difference,” Yeutsy said. “And so when my parents said that we were going to package food for Meals from the Heartland, I was like, “Hey that’s what I have always wanted to do.” 

This was her second time taking part in a packaging event, having previously gone to a mobile event through her father’s employer. She was happy to have a hand in fighting hunger again. Yeutsy thought it sounded fun, but even more so this time because she was going with her family.

“I felt great when I saw the people in my church working together and having fun at the same time,” she said. “It was really fun and it is even more fun when you are doing it with your friends and family.” 

“Every scoop of rice or veggies I felt like I was doing something that can really change the world,” said Yeutsy.

It was a great experience Yeutsy said, and she can’t wait to do it again.

“I learned that we have SO much here that we should give more often because some people in the world don't even have water or food or shelter,” she said. “It is very easy to get all of that stuff here.  All we have to do is go to the store and pick out the things we want and go and enjoy them.”

“We don't even notice sometimes that we have everything here with us,” Yeutsy said. “We have a roof over our heads, water, food and friends and family to share it with.”

“I think that people should know that just one box of food can change a whole lot of lives,” said Yeutsy. “And it can really change the world.”

Joan Hitzel was among the adults from Aldersgate UMC who participated in the August 29 Annual Hunger Fight. Her adult Sunday school group packaged at the event together, and they got a little competitive during the packaging, which added to the fun.

“Our Sunday school tries to do service in the community,” Hitzel said.

Meals from the Heartland was an ideal way to do this.

“It’s a very easy way to give back to the community,” said Hitzel. “And to try to solve the problem of hunger.”

“I thought that it had a lot of value,” Hitzel said. “It’s a good way to get engaged and participate in fighting hunger, not only throughout the world but for people in our local community as well.”

Maddie Petersen, 13, is part of the Confirmation class at Aldersgate. Petersen and a couple friends just decided to sign up and go, she said.

“I just thought that it would be a fun opportunity to help people and have fun with my friends at the same time,” Petersen said.

And the group did have fun.

“We did a lot of different things,” said Petersen. “We changed positions.”

Fun wasn’t all that was accomplished that day.

“I think we learned about helping people,” Petersen said. “Some people live like that, it wasn’t as easy for them.”

The lessons learned have stayed with her, she said.

“I think about how other people live, and don’t have as easy as I do,” said Petersen. “I try to help other people now as much as I can.”

Petersen recommends that other young people who have the opportunity to experience a Meals from the Heartland packaging event do so.

“Definitely do it,” Petersen said. “It’s a great experience, and it’s a lot of fun. “Definitely do it.”

For more information on Meals from the Heartland see the organization’s website at Visit the Aldersgate United Methodist Church site at