DES MOINES, Iowa – It’s an annual tradition that could arguably be classified as one of the country’s largest hunger drives, but organizers with Meals from the Heartland say this year, the usual goal of packaging 5 million meals in four days could be an uphill battle.
“We’re low on volunteers this year,” said Susan Bunz, Executive Director for Meals from the Heartland. “We need a couple thousand more to fill all of our shifts.”
Wednesday kicked off the eighth annual Hunger Fight at Hy-Veel Hall in Des Moines. The four-day event will end on Saturday afternoon, where Meals from the Heartland hopes to have packaged over 5 million meals. A typical shift lasts about two hours, and Bunz says anyone can volunteer; over the years, it’s been popular for groups from schools, corporations, and churches to sign up together.
“This event is usually over Labor Day, and this year we changed it,” she said. “So I think it’s just not on people’s radars the way it usually is, and hopefully we can get the word out and get enough volunteers to meet our goal.”
Last year, Meals from the Heartland came up short on its goal of packaging 5 million meals at the seventh Hunger Fight, drumming up 4.6 million. However, Bunz says the group succeeded at its yearly goal of packaging just over 10 million meals. This year, the organization set its bar even higher, with a year-end goal of packaging 15 million meals.
“So the stakes are even higher here this year,” she said.
Meals from the Heartland sends pre-packaged dry meals to local food banks and pantries across Iowa, as well as tragedy- and poverty-stricken countries like Haiti, South Africa, and the Phillippines.