Students package 30,000 meals for those in need


Jacob Kuehl

Students gather with packaged meals.

by Jacob Keuhl, Staff Reporter

On Thursday, students gathered in Cowles Fieldhouse to make bags for Meals from the Heartland, a nonprofit organization that donates packaged meals to starving children in the country and abroad.

The event was a success, with roughly 150 volunteers. In just two hours, students were able to prepare 30,000 meals for the organization. 

The community service program was brought in by Rotaract Club and organized by the club’s vice president Alyssa Pingel. 

“We wanted to hold this event because it is in person and Meals from the Heartland is a really good way to give back to the community,” said Pingel. 

Pingel has helped run the event in the past, but this is her first year as its organization leader.

This academic year is the first time that Meals from the Heartland was hosted at Simpson due to COVID-19. The event is usually held within orientation for the first years but was canceled for safety reasons.

The ability to volunteer was offered to anyone who has a group of six or 12 people. The groups are assigned to tables and members are split into different tasks that consist of filling the bags with the food, weighing the bags, using a heat sealer to close the bags and putting the bags in boxes. 

The members of Rotaract Club helped out during the event by refilling the buckets that held the ingredients at each group’s table. 

This year’s Meals from the Heartland was bittersweet for Ron Albrecht, professor of music emeritus and core volunteer, as it marked the first year where none of his students still attended the college. 

“I spent 38 years working with college students, and I thought it was a good way to keep working with students in the age group after retiring. I go to the packing facilities and volunteer 2-3 times a week,” said Albrecht.

Participating in Meals from the Heartland gives a positive experience to students, explains Rotaract Club president Laura Nielson. 

“I love the fact that you are serving while being in a social team base setting and competing against each other,” says Nielson.

Mike Franzdsen is the organizer on the side of Meals from the Heartland and has been working for the nonprofit for nine years. 

“I like getting out into the community and working with the different people. The stories and reasons for giving back are always different,” said Franzdsen. 

It is unknown if Meals from the Heartland will return in the fall of 2021 for first-year orientation at this time.