My neighbor Valerie has lived on our cul-de-sac for 52 years. Her front yard is often the gathering place for neighbors to share the latest news about happenings on our block. Three months ago during Valerie’s pre-op exam for her toe amputation, her doctor told her she needed triple bypass heart surgery immediately.
After both surgeries were completed and Valerie was recovering, our neighbor Monica went into action. She walked up and down the street recruiting volunteers to deliver meals to Valerie and her husband for the rest of the summer. She found a website called Meal Train that simplifies the organization of giving and receiving meals.
Meal Train is the perfect solution for friends who are going through a difficult or challenging time due to a birth, surgery, or illness and could use some help. Willing friends, neighbors, colleagues, and congregation members can meet this need and show they care by cooking and taking them a meal.
Meal Train eliminates the confusion related to meal giving by providing information on what they like, when they want it, and what are their food preferences. The program provides each giver this information and simplifies the process so they can focus on preparing the meals.
Meal Train evolved through a personal experience by Kathleen Laramee, the wife of co-founder Michael Laramee. In September 2009, Kathleen volunteered to organize the giving of meals, known as a meal train, to support a neighborhood family after the birth of a new baby.
As the organizer, Kathleen made a list of the family’s meal preferences and preferred dates in addition to collecting names of friends and neighborhood parents who had expressed interest in participating in the meal train. Once the baby arrived, she sent an e-mail to each family asking them to contact her to book a night.
While enjoying her role, Kathleen was frequently asked the same questions from the potential givers “What days are they available? What do they like to eat? What have they already had? What don’t they like? Are there any allergies? How many should I cook for? Can I reschedule?” In addition, the recipient family was also asking questions “Who is delivering tonight? Can we invite more people? Someone just called and wants to bring something by, are we available? Can you tell people not to bring any more soup?”
As the number of participants grew, the process became difficult to keep organized. In discussing her challenges with Michael, he said, “There has to be a better way.”
Not finding a website or ready-made solution, Michael contacted friend and software developer, co-founder Stephen DePasquale, and Meal Train was born.
The goal continues to be to create a site that is easy-to-use, simplifies the process, and enhances all users’ experience so friends can support friends with meals after significant life events.
I found the program very user-friendly. There’s a tutorial for the organizer and their FAQs give lots of great ideas for organizers. As a participant, all I did was sign up on line, select the dates I could deliver meals, and then received an email reminder the day before my delivery date.
The best part of all was the fun I had preparing the dinner tray and delivering it. After I signed up, I called Valerie to give her some menu choices. Without hesitation, she chose macaroni and cheese.
As I prepared and plated the food, I felt like I was truly pouring my love into it. I felt grateful for the opportunity to help my neighbor. Valerie said she was grateful for all the kindness she’s received. “We have the best block in the world!”
Using Meal Train this summer has brought our close-knit neighborhood even closer and reassured us that if one of us ever needed anything, we know we could count on each other for help.
Really Cheesy Mac and Cheese Recipe
2 1/2 cups elbow macaroni or penne
3 tbs. butter
3 tbs. flour
2 cups milk
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups extra sharp Cheddar cheese
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
1. Cook pasta in boiling water until just al dente. Drain.
2. Melt butter in saucepan and whisk in flour until it foams.
3. Slowly add milk whisking quickly so it doesn’t get lumpy.
4. Cook and stir until thick.
5. Add salt and cheese.
6. Stir until the cheese is melted.
7. Fold pasta into sauce and put in 9 x 9-inch Pyrex pan.
8. Bake for 45+ minutes or until bubbly and brown on top.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.