I have written early a bit about the important Christian practice of offering hospitality. Often this hospitality is in the form of opening our homes to others. We we can also extend hospitality beyond our homes by providing meals to others.
In the last 30 years I have been both a recipient of, and a provider of meals delivered to the home. Reasons have varied, the joy of a new birth, the pain of losing someone dear, a life overwhelmed by chemotherapy or other trauma. Providing a meal to doesn’t have to be complicated, just do whatever you can. That said, I think there are a number of things we can do to make the providing a meal deliver the most benefit.
0) When dropping off a meal, be sensitive to the family needs. Sometimes the very best thing is to hand a bag/box filled with the food you are providing to the family at the door, not even go inside. Sometimes when dropping off food, the family would like nothing better for you to come inside and spend some time with them. Take your lead from the family. Make it clear that it’s a priveldge to provide a meal and they are under no obligation to ask you in. but if you don’t have another obligation that you need to get to, that you would happy to spend some time with them.
1) Make sure you know of any dietary restrictions or food allergies so the people you are providing food to can eat it. Some people might need you to avoid peanuts, food containing gluten, foods that have a high glycemic index (diabetics) etc.
2) Deliver food in “disposable” containers. Best if the containers can survive microwave and/or oven use. This saves them the hassle of having to clean the dishes and the sometimes difficult chore of returning the dishes. Extra points if the containers are “re-usable” or compostable.
3) Consider bringing the main dish in two containers. One that is for the first night, and a second which could be used the first night if they are extra hungry (or have a guest), put in the refrigerator to use the following night, or can go strait into the freezer. [Put a date, and name of the item on the container so it’s not a mystery in the freezer.]
4) Select food which doesn’t have to be eaten immediately. It’s great to deliver a hot meal, but sometimes the recipients aren’t able to enjoy it immediately. So make sure the food will be good reheated. Even better, select food that will freeze well. For fresh items that won’t freeze, make sure that it will do well if stored in the refrigerator for a day. For example, if you provide a salad, provide salad dressing in a separate container which can be added just before the salad is eaten so the greens don’t wilt.
5) Within your knowledge of the family and what food others have brought, bring something a bit different that you believe the family will like. Getting lasagna or a casserole every night will get tiresome.
6) Leave a card with a description of the main dish and the recipe (or a URL to the online recipe) or the name of the restaurant. If they really like it, they don’t have to track you down. Having the list of ingredients is also helpful to people who have food allergies.
7) If you have the privilege of bringing food more than once, ask “Would you like the same thing again, or try something new?”
8) Consider bring a dessert. Yeah, it’s not healthy to eat dessert every night, but when we are bringing food, there are other considerations. Home made is nice, but store bought is just fine. Ice cream is always a legitimate dessert 🙂
9) Consider bringing flowers, wine, nuts, cheese, fruit, or something else that compliments the food. You will need to know the people to have a good idea of what would be appreciated.
For some additional ideas, and especially for people coordinating meals, check out Bethany’s tips for bringing new mom or anyone else meals.
Christine Pohl has written several books which explore the interaction between community and hospitality.
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.