Grateful Spotlight: Meals from the Heartland

September 2, 2021

By Suman Sridhar

Just one dollar or one volunteer hour can make an impact on child hunger. This is the motto Meals from the Heartland, an Iowa-based non-profit organization, upholds. The organization empowers people to save starving children by packaging and distributing meals to others in need. Even though the organization is based in West Des Moines, Iowa, it serves people nationally and globally. 

Grateful spoke with Kali Zimmerman, a Marketing Manager at Meals from the Heartland, to learn more about the organization’s purpose and initiatives. Check out the interview below:

G: What is Meals from the Heartland?

K: Meals from the Heartland is a faith-related organization that believes in the importance of prayer, volunteer service, and financial giving to help save starving children. We are made up of volunteers from businesses, schools, churches, community organizations, and beyond. We package meals for delivery to malnourished people in Iowa, across the United States, and around the world.

G: Whom do you serve?  

K: We feed the hungry in Iowa, across the US, and around the world. Internationally, we help feed over 387,000 children in feeding initiatives in 36 countries.    

G: What is the purpose of your organization? What drove the need for it?

K: The inspiration for the Meals from the Heartland effort began with a 2007 food-packaging event held during Lent by a church in West Des Moines, Iowa. The success of that event encouraged leaders to organize a community-wide food-packaging event that would involve more volunteers to feed hungry children and families. It was that leap of faith that brought Meals from the Heartland to Des Moines in 2008. It resulted in 12,000 volunteers who packaged more than 4 million meals in a week’s time at our first Annual Hunger Fight.

G: What does the work you do entail?

K: Our volunteers hand-pack meals to be distributed throughout the community and across the world. Packaging shifts are available in our West Des Moines Packaging Center Tuesdays-Saturdays. Businesses, schools, churches, and social groups may also host a Mobile Hunger Fight at their location, where we help you run meal-packaging, service-learning projects. You provide the volunteers and we’ll provide the food and materials.

G: Tell us about your volunteers.

K: Our volunteers range from age 5 to 95. They participate in various roles from packager, meal bag labeler, support volunteer, event greeter, off-site label coordinator, dishwasher, and many more.

G: What have been some of the biggest highlights for the organization?

K: Despite the pandemic in 2020, along with 30,440 volunteers, we were able to distribute over 19 million meals! 

G: Meals from the Heartland serves globally. Can you tell us about its involvement in the Midwest in particular? 

K: Locally, we partner with food banks and pantries that are taking action to feed the hungry in Iowa, providing nourishment and support to individuals and families in need. These organizations include the Des Moines Area Religious Council (DMARC) food pantry network as well as dozens of church-affiliated food pantries. In 2020, 1,674,864 meals were distributed across the state of Iowa.

G: Why did you decide to work with Grateful? What did the partnership entail?

K: We support the Grateful platform because it connects nonprofits and volunteers with so many local opportunities.

G: How was your experience working with Grateful? 

K: Partnering with Grateful is beneficial in so many ways! We strive to empower our community to share in giving back to feed those in need and Grateful is a wonderful way to do that. 

G: Is there anything else you’d like to add about Meals from the Heartland?

K: Our mission is “empowering people to feed starving children”. Our goal of “keeping bellies full and smiles on faces” is accomplished with the help of our caring community, volunteers, and dedicated distribution partners.

Break the chain of hunger and save lives

The Midwest is blessed with natural food resources like grain and corn. Meals from the Heartland successfully leverages those food resources to help children and families worldwide. Since 2008, the organization has packaged over 170 million meals for families across the world. Through faith, collaboration, and positivity, Meals from the Heartland has made a major difference in keeping children and families fed and happy.

Want to learn more about Meals from the Heartland? Visit

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