Packing by the thousands

HUMBOLDT – The fellowship hall at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church got turned into a factory on Friday and Saturday morning.

On the supply end, pallets of raw ingredients including bags of rice, textured soy, dried vegetables and a vitamin/mineral mix.

On the outbound side, boxes and boxes holding the finished product, bags of mixed ingredients that after cooking in water for 20 minutes, make a nutritious complete meal.

Each bag makes enough food to serve six people.

Dave Bradley, executive director of Meals from the Heartland, said that the goal was to pack a total of 80,000 bags over the course of the two days.

Of course, to pack that many requires a lot of volunteers.

That was not a problem.

“We had 220 students help yesterday,” he said. “Today we have about 300 volunteers.”

So how fast can a room full of volunteers working at 12 packing lines pack meals.

At 9:25 a.m., 30,024 had been completed. Twenty minutes later, the tally stood at 40,176.

The final count for the first hour Saturday morning -28,926.

Bradley said that just over 40,000 of the packed meals were destined for the food pantry in Humboldt. Some would also go to the Food Bank of Iowa in Des Moines.

Most of the meals packaged by the organization go to impoverished nations such as Haiti. He said that in 2012, they packaged 7.7 million meals of which 700,000 stayed in the U.S.

“Each year, that amount increases,” he said.

Volunteer Nicole Fusco, of Humboldt, spent her shift holding the plastic bag at the bottom of a plastic funnel while fellow volunteers poured carefully measured ingredients into it.

“It’s the right thing to do,” she said. “You feel good helping other people.”

Her fellow volunteers, Vick Burgett and Carter Holm, also of Humboldt, said they were there for the same reason, the joy of being able to help others.

Noah Skow, of Dakota City, 10, got to help seal the completed bags. He gave up a morning of “messing around.” at home.

“I just felt like doing it,” he said.

Rose Daniels, 9, of Humboldt is a veteran volunteer, it’s her second time helping out.

She came back for a good reason too.

“I thought it was pretty cool to help feed the hungry,” she said.

DeDe Merris, of Humboldt, attended the event because she said she wanted to get involved in her community. She was one of dozens of volunteers who took advantage of being able to sample a prepared portion of the food she was packing.

She gave it a good endorsement.

“I would serve it to my own family,” she said.

Each package of food distributed in the U.S. comes with a card containing recipe suggestions. The meals can be used as the basis for a variety of meals by adding meats, soups or vegetables.

For more information about the organization, see