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Sharing blessings with those in need


April 2, 2012
Billie Shelton , The Daily Freeman Journal

It is a sobering thought to realize that some people are hungry. I don't mean the feeling you just want a snack, or the times you may stand in front of the refrigerator with the door open asking yourself what you're hungry for. No, this is real hunger, the kind that comes when there simply isn't enough food to eat.

Last weekend I was part of an effort aimed at helping to feed the hungry. The congregations of two small churches in my little town in the middle of Iowa raised $1,875 to pay for the food supplies, and then 44 folks showed up to fill the bags on a beautiful Saturday morning when it would have been easy to stay home to do yard work.

But instead we gathered together, donned hair covers and plastic gloves, and got busy at making a difference in the lives of others. Working at stations, we filled plastic bags with measures of rice, soy protein, dried vegetables, and vitamin powder. Then each bag was weighed, sealed and packed into cardboard cartons ready for shipment to feed hungry people around the world, from local food pantries and Indian reservations in New Mexico all the way to South Africa and Haiti.

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The pack was an assembly line approach, and soon the 10 people at my table were cranking out the filled bags smoothly. We chatted, we laughed at our mistakes (it helps if you wait for the empty bag to be in place before you dump in the rice), and the camaraderie was evident all around the room. In about 90 minutes we had packed over 1,800 bags that will feed over 11,000 people.

I can't say that the ingredients that went into the food bags labeled Meals from the Heartland looked especially appetizing, especially the vitamin powder that was my duty, but the packages were formulated by a nutritionist to be accepted by many cultures around the world. The content of each packet, when cooked in boiling water, feeds a family of six for just $1.20. I sampled a cooked packet the next day, and it was much like a rice casserole without any meat-not exactly what my Midwestern palate is accustomed to, but quite palatable all the same. Especially if one was hungry.

Meals from the Heartland is based in Des Moines, where it got started in 2008 when the first mass packaging event was held and 12,000 volunteers packaged more than 4 million meals in a week's time. Mass packaging events are still held annually in Des Moines, and the effort is slowly catching on outside the metro area with mobile packs like where I participated. Just this year, some 265,500 meals have been packed.

I'm so glad we can share some of our blessings. We have so much.



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