Frequently Asked Questions

What is hunger and food insecurity?

Hunger and food insecurity impact people of all demographics and are world-wide social challenges. Hunger is a craving or urgent need for food or a specific nutrient. Food insecure people are those that at some point during the week literally don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Either they can’t afford to buy food, or don’t have access to food. It can be children deep in urban settings, families in rural Appalachia, elderly people who are forced to make the decision between buying medicine or food, a neighbor or your child’s classmate. To find out the food insecurity rate in any community in the U.S., please visit Map the Meal Gap.

What is a meal packaging event?

Meal packaging events engage people to give back to their community. Volunteers work together in an assembly line to create protein-enriched meals to combat hunger both domestically and internationally. 

What will I be doing as a volunteer?

Please arrive 20 minutes prior to your shift to allow ample time to check-in and complete a sanitation protocol, which will include hand sanitation as well as receiving gloves and a hairnet, beard net (as applicable). You will then join a packaging team to work together to create meal bags or boxes. Exact duties will differ but may include scooping raw ingredients, weighing meals for accuracy, sealing the meal packs, and boxing the completed meals. 

Do I have to wear a hairnet? Gloves?

Yes! All volunteers that enter the meal packing area are required to wear hairnets and beard nets as applicable. Volunteers helping with the food handling tasks during the event will also wear gloves so that we maintain a high level of food safety and sanitation.

Will I be trained?

Of course! Your packaging team will have a team leader to provide hands-on training for you and be available throughout the event for any questions you may have. 

Is there anything I should do to be prepared?

Food safety and sanitization is vital. Please remove all jewelry prior to arriving at the event to include rings, bracelets, large necklaces, and earrings. If you have been sick, or feel like you may be ill, please let us know upon check-in so we can place you at a volunteer activity that is non-food handling. 

What should I wear?

Relaxed casual clothing and closed-toe shoes are recommended. 

What should I bring?

To expedite your volunteer check-in, please bring a printed copy of your registration (if applicable). 

What should I NOT bring?

No backpacks, purses/bags, or weapons of any kind are permitted in the packing event. We strongly recommend that you keep all personal items in your car or where you are staying as these items will not be allowed in the meal packaging area. There are no storage areas available for these personal items and we cannot assume liability for loss of any items at/or during the event. Food or drink are not permitted in the meal packaging area.

Is it difficult? Safe? Fun?

Meal packaging is simple, safe and fun service event for all ages. Training will be provided on-site and we are able to accommodate any special needs you may have. 

Are there age restrictions?

Meal packaging events are great for all ages and the event is family friendly. 

What if I have allergies?

Meal recipes may contain soy and other food allergens. If you have an allergy, please let us know upon check-in so that we can assign you to a volunteer activity away from the allergen.

Are there physical requirements for volunteering?

Depending on your volunteer role, physical requirements differ. For most roles, you will stand for your volunteer shift and complete tasks with your hands (scooping, weighing bags, sealing, etc.). Chairs are available for those unable to stand the entire time. An on-site event coordinator can help you if you have any concerns or need special accommodations.  

What if I have a disability?

Meal packaging events are open to everyone. Please let us know upon arrival if you have any special needs or requests so we can do our best to accommodate.

What’s the shelf life of a meal?

Meals are created to last approximately two years. Expiration dates are placed on the bags and boxes during the meal packing event. 

Where are the meals going?

Meals are most often distributed to local communities through food banks and food pantries. Additional details regarding meal distribution will be available during the event.    

How many meals can you package in an hour?

A packing team of 10 to 12 volunteers can create about 2,000 meals per hour. 

How many meals are in a box?

Six servings (meals) per bag

36 bags per box

216 meals per box

How are the meals prepared?

Meal preparation is simple and does not require additional ingredients. Most meals are created by boiling water and adding ingredients until water has boiled down and contents are cooked thoroughly. Each bag has preparation instructions in pictures on the back for reference. 

How can I host a meal packing event?

We would love to partner with you to host a meal packaging event. Please contact our home office in Des Moines, IA, for additional information. Our email is and you can also reach us via phone at 515-287-9162. 

Is a photo release or liability release required to participate?

By registering for an event, you agree to our Waiver described here, and release The Outreach Program, and all other suppliers and partners from any and all liability.  Photo Release:  For consideration, the receipt and sufficiency of which is hereby acknowledged, I irrevocably authorize the Parties to copyright, use and publish for any lawful purpose the photographic images, audio recordings, and video images of me that are collected during my participation in the Service Project. I hereby waive any and all interest in or claims to any and all photographs, pictures, videotape images and voice and sound reproductions taken of me by or for the Project and do hereby grant to the Parties full permission for advertising and publication purposes, or any other legal purposes to copyright, use, sell, publish or license photographic portraits, pictures, prints or other reproductions made of me in connection with the agreement, and to make changes or alterations therein and / or additions hereto in connection with testimonial copy with fictitious names or otherwise and for any and all commercial purposes whatsoever.  I do hereby waive any right that I may have to inspect or approve the finished product or advertising or other copy that may be used in connections therewith or the use to which it may be applied and the Parties may edit, modify or reuse the above in any manner for purposes of advertising and trade in any and all media, without limitation. I hereby release and fully discharge the Parties, it’s successors and assigns and all persons acting under its permission or authority, from any liability by virtue of any blurring, distortion, alteration, optical illusion, or use in composite form whether intentional or otherwise, that may occur or be produced in the recording, taking of the pictures, or in any processing tending toward the completion of the finished product. Liability Waiver:  In consideration for being permitted to participate in the volunteer project being organized The Outreach Program, and other entities that may be involved in these projects, I acknowledge that my participation in these events may subject me to risk of injury or death, and hereby release and hold The Outreach Program, and all other parties (“Parties”) from liability for injury or death that may occur before, during, or after my service, related in any way to my participation in the Service Project.

I am a member of the media and wish to learn more. Who should I contact? 

Please direct any media inquiries to our home office in Des Moines, IA. Our email is and you can also reach us via phone at 515-287-9162.