The county that fed 130,000 —Meals donated to hungry at Norman Borlaug Fest

Ana Gibbs and Cassidy Bowen were two of the 600 volunteers. Ana said, “It was fun. We got to package food for kids that didn’t have any food. Everybody had to wear a hairnet and an apron. My job was to shake the bag to make it flat, so we could package it.” (Photo submitted)

Ana Gibbs and Cassidy Bowen were two of the 600 volunteers. Ana said, “It was fun. We got to package food for kids that didn’t have any food. Everybody had to wear a hairnet and an apron. My job was to shake the bag to make it flat, so we could package it.” (Photo submitted)

By Marcie Klomp
Dr. Norman Borlaug is known as the man who fed a billion people. It’s hard to top that, but in a little over a day, folks from Howard County and area helped package 131,976 meals for local and world-wide food banks. That’ not too shabby! Protivin/Cresco native Borlaug would be proud.

It all started on Friday of Norman Borlaug Harvest Festival, Sept. 19, when fifth graders attended Inspire Education Day at Borlaug’s birthplace. The local students packaged 6,264 meals. Then on Sunday, over 600 others helped package another 125,712 meals, for a total of 131,976.

Co-chair of the Meals from the Heartland event Pam Carver was overwhelmed and inspired by it all. “On Sunday, it was fun to hear the kids telling their parents about what they did when they were packaging on Friday.”

She said everybody chipped in. Over 560 people registered online to help. Some couldn’t make it, but there were others to take their place.
Joyce Koster of Lime Springs was one of the helpers. She went with a group from St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. They used the experience as their “God’s Work, Our Hands” ELCA service project.
Pastor Maureen Hagen said, “When we heard about the Meals from the Heartland food packaging event that was being organized for Sept. 21, it seemed natural for us to postpone our service project (usually done the first Sunday in September) until then.”
Koster said the day started with a short movie. “While we were in there, we were told 51,000 meals had been packaged. While we were packaging the number rose to 76,000”

Packaging began with 10 people per table, five on each side. It started with a bag. A packet of nutrition, one cup of crushed soybean and some rice or macaroni were added. Koster explained, “Our table was macaroni, and they were really skinny little noodles. They had to weigh exactly 353 grams.” The bags were then sealed and put in a box. When the box was full of 36 bags (216 meals) the table would cheer!

Carver added the meals staying in northeast Iowa had an added ingredient—a picture drawn by a Crestwood kindergartner.
All summer, the committee has been getting donations, and it culminated with the packaging of the meals. They raised $30,379.20. Some of that was a match from Eileen and Keith Denners and a big donation from Lynch Family Foundation.

Meals from the Heartland, a non-profit out of West Des Moines, packaged over 4.3 million meals over Labor Day and has never traveled this far north. But with the Howard County event being so successful, they will be happy to return next year.

The original goal of the committee (co-chairs Carver and Vickie Grube, along with Neil Lienhard, Jason Passmore, Ken Fencl, Margaret Ness, Spiff Slifka and Mary Ellen Turnmire) was to donate 100,000 meals. Well they broke that goal by 25 percent!
Carver said there were some doubters. She was never one of them. “This is a God thing. This is a good thing. This is gonna fly.” And fly it did.

The committee is already planning for next year. With the success of this year, it is not unrealistic to think that within five years a million meals can be dispersed. And a million is just a stone’s throw from a billion!
(More info on back page)

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