Author: Maddie Jaggars ’17
I recently volunteered with Graceland’s Ag Business program at the Iowa Hunger Summit – a weeklong convention discussing the issue of poverty and hunger, domestic and foreign – to earn service learning hours for a class. My group left Graceland for downtown Des Moines at 4:30 a.m., and after our journey to the city, we registered, got our fancy name badges, then found the complimentary coffee and bagels.
We had about an hour to wake up before we were led upstairs and told the layout for the day. Our roles were as doorman and host. There was a USDA convention happening the floor below the Hunger Summit that week, so we stood by the elevator and greeted those with similar badges, or if they hadn’t registered we’d lead them in the right direction. It went by fairly quickly.
The whole convention was laid out on the third floor of the Marriot. There were tables upon tables set up for government organizations that were there to inform people of they’re part in hunger and what they are doing to change it. Among these organizations was the Food Resource Bank (FRB), which has partnered with Graceland’s Ag. Business program. The resource bank is about building suitability versus relief. If you’re a student, I’m sure you’ve seen the test plots behind Big G lake. I learned that those plots grow food to raise money throughout the school year, and at the end of each academic year the proceeds go to sustainable charities, FRB and others.
We led people to open tables for lunch, and then listened to the speakers while we ate meals provided by the Outreach program; the same meals used to fight hunger across the world. After lunch we helped package some of the meals; the same mac ‘n cheese we ate for lunch. There was a small assembly line in the lobby of the hotel. We all got hairnets and gloves, and we laughed at the students who had to wear a beard net. We spent an hour scooping, weighing, sealing and labeling little packages and, within an hour, we helped package over 2,000 ready-to-eat mac ‘n cheese meals.
It was a long day, but hearing the importance of what these organizations are doing to create a sustainable world was incredible. Believe it or not, Decatur County, where Graceland is located, is ranked 3rd most poverty-stricken county in Iowa, and Iowa is ranked 50th as the most malnourished state. These numbers really hit home to me in knowing that my soon-to-be alma mater sits in an place where hunger is real.
Through this experience, I was able to make a contribution to Iowa and the world, and I hope there’s more good to come from the ag test plots and additional volunteer opportunities available through the community of Graceland.
[Photo: Graceland University students form an assembly line to package food during the Iowa Hunger Summit earlier this month.]