Dallas Center-Grimes students gathered at Grimes Methodist Church on Friday, Feb. 21, to package meals to help others in need. The Grimes Community Hunger Fight is an event run by community members volunteering their time and talents.

Friday’s event consisted of high school students from different groups, primarily from the Key Club, FCA and FFA.

Joanna Poole was one of the adults helping on Friday night. She teaches at the high school and is the Key Club advisor. The Key Club members helped coordinate the teams.

Saturday’s volunteers were made up of families, church members, and companies who came for a team building activity. Residents from Kennybrook senior center, in Grimes, previously helped for this event by placing the nutrition labels on the bags.

There is a committee of volunteers that organized the entire event. Shellie Billings is one of those integral members. This year, the committee stretched their goal after reaching a little over 60,000 meals last year. They planned to do around 75,000 meals between Friday evening and Saturday morning’s events.

“The way that it works, the number of meals you package, you pay for, 20 cents a meal. Meals from the Heartland is a great organization, they will match some of the money that the kids raise,” Billings said. “We have a youth assistance grant. I know the kids alone brought $1,000 tonight. For the whole event, we need to raise about $12,500.”

Billings is now on the staff at Meals from the Heartland. She is very invested in this event and the overall mission to fight hunger.

“Well, I’ve personally traveled to Uganda and seen the need. Hunger is one of those hidden things that we don’t see a lot here in the U.S.,” Billings said. “It’s there, it’s just kind of easy for us to miss it, but once you see the need you realize, I can do something about that by just donating a few hours of my time.”

Billings’s husband, Steve, went to Uganda three years ago and actually saw these meals being served in an orphanage.

These particular meals will most likely be going to international children’s feeding initiatives. Meals of the Heartland has a partnership with Convoy of Hope and they have children’s feeding initiatives all over the world.

Billings said, “Their goal is to feed 300,000 children every day in a year and so that takes a lot of meals.”

At this year’s event, they are packaging a meal called the Hearty Pack. It’s a rice and soy-based meal that has a cup of rice, a cup of soy, dried vegetables, and vitamins. This formula was designed at Iowa State University by their food scientists. It was designed for people who may be hunger insecure or may not have the best diet.

“Some people look at the label on the back. It’s pretty high in sodium. So, for some U.S. people, it’s not a good fit for them, but in underdeveloped areas, it’s what they need,” Billings said.

Each bag will feed 6 people. There are 36 bags in each box, which is 216 meals total.

Tonight, the students learned how to package meals, but Billings feels they can learn even more.

“They can learn that they can make a difference. They have power to make a difference in the life of someone else either by giving their time or investing in their money,” Billings added. “They can learn it’s fun. You get together with your friends. The time goes fast. You just have a great feeling. They can learn to empathize with people who don’t have as much as they do.”

Some of the student volunteers shared their thoughts and what they are learning by participating in this event.

Evan Nelson, 11 and in the sixth grade said his favorite part of the event is helping people.

“There’s a lot of other people out there that need things. We don’t need as many things as they do,” he added.

Grayson Blum, 16 and in the 10th grade, enjoyed seeing how happy the kids are when they get new food.

“You can’t take anything for granted,” Blum said.

Shane Dejoode, 16 and in the 11th grade, was participating on Feb. 21 for the third time.

“I don’t know exactly where these meals go, but I’m sure it’s helping whatever communities and groups that they go to,” he said.

“I like that I’m able to help people just by giving up a short amount of my time,” Jaelynn Andreasen, 15 and in the 10th grade, added.

This year, all volunteer shifts were full, but Billings wants Dallas County to know that if they aren’t able to provide their time, they may still provide a donation.

“To be honest, the donation part is always the more difficult part,” Billings said. “Every dollar makes a difference. $1 can feed 5 people.”