Meal trains are a such wonderful way to support friends, family, and community members during times of need, such as after the birth of a new baby, during an illness or surgery, or after a death in the family. They’re essentially schedules that organize the delivery of meals to the recipient's home.
One of the things we think is most important in setting up meal trains is getting the recipient's preferences, likes, and dislikes. This will make sure they’re getting food they’ll actually enjoy, and help reduce food waste! Homemade meals are great, but also not necessary if you’re not a home chef. Ordering takeout from their favourite spots or gift cards is another great way to participate if you don’t love cooking or have the time to, but still want to support them.
Here are some steps to help you organize a successful meal train:
Identify the recipient's needs: Before setting up a meal train, it's really important to communicate with the recipient and find out their dietary preferences and any allergies or food restrictions they may have. Additionally, find out how many people are in their household and how long they will need meal support.
Recruit volunteers: Reach out to friends, family members, coworkers, and community members to recruit volunteers to participate in the meal train. Provide them with the recipient's dietary preferences, allergies, and any other relevant information, and create a schedule that outlines when each volunteer will provide a meal. PS. download our FREE meal train template to communicate all this easily.
Create a meal train schedule: There are several online tools available to create a meal train schedule. Some popular options include Meal Train, Take Them A Meal, and Care Calendar. These platforms allow you to set up a schedule, share it with volunteers, and allow them to sign up for a specific date and time.
Provide meal suggestions: Some volunteers may need guidance on what to prepare for the recipient. Provide a list of suggested meal ideas that are easy to transport and reheat, such as casseroles, soups, and stews. Consider including a list of preferred restaurants or catering services that can deliver pre-made meals to the recipient's home.
5. Coordinate meal delivery: Provide volunteers with the recipient's address and any relevant delivery instructions, such as where to leave the meal if the recipient is not home. Encourage volunteers to label their meal with the recipient's name and the date it was prepared.
6. Follow up: Check in with the recipient and their family throughout the meal train to ensure that their needs are being met. If they have any feedback or suggestions, share them with the volunteers to help improve future meal trains.
7. Express gratitude: Finally, it's important to express gratitude to the volunteers who participated in the meal train. Consider sending a thank you card or email, or organizing a potluck or gathering to show your appreciation.
Meal trains can be a wonderful way to support friends and loved ones during difficult times. By following these steps, you can help organize a successful meal train that provides comfort and nourishment to those in need.
Sustainability tips for meal trains:
- Use reusable containers to deliver the food. Using your own casserole dishes (label them to make sure they get back to you) is a great way to keep it low waste.
- Aluminum trays work great as well for delivering meals. They’re recyclable and can freeze well.
Download our FREE meal train spreadsheet here so that you can set up your own super successful meal train!
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