The gym at the Anamosa High School was full throughout the day April 11 as students and staff helped pack up 50,000 meals to be handed over to the local food bank.

Preparation for the event started the night before, Riley Troester said, an officer of Anamosa’s FFA Chapter and co-coordinator of the event. The setup for the event started at 5:30 p.m. the night before and packaging began at 8:30 a.m. and went through the mid-afternoon. The entire planning stage to get ready for the event lasted four or five months.

Will Rickels was one of the FFA members that assisted all day with the event. Though the day was long and the work was hard, the cause was worth the effort.

“I think it’s a good way to help people out and we’re getting a lot accomplished with all these people helping,” he said. “It’s worth getting exhausted and worth all the work.”

According to their website, the Meals from the Heartland effort began with a 2007 food-packaging event held during Lent in a church in West Des Moines. The inaugural event and the response from the community encouraged leaders to organize a community-wide food-packaging event that would involve more volunteers to feed hungry children and families. As a result, 12,000 volunteers packaged more than 4 million meals in a week’s time.

The success of that first event led to the development of a year-round meal packaging effort. Thousands of volunteers now come together to package millions of meals year-round.

Since packaging more than 4 million meals in the first year, the organization has packaged as many as 23,049,000 meals in a calendar year, 2017. Despite a slight dip in 2018, the organization still managed to package more than 19 million meals. 

In addition to the students and staff of the high school, the packing wrapped up as fourth graders from Strawberry Hill Elementary finished off the day after a brief presentation on what Meals from the Heartland was all about.

It was the second time Anamosa had participated in a food packing event, the first time being in 2017, and Troester said they will be doing the event again in another two years.

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