I found a wonderful new way to give back to others in 2012, by providing meals to family and friends who are ill, bedridden, have a new baby, or are grieving the loss of a loved one.
A few weeks ago I was invited to sign up to make a meal for a family from my sons school. Today is my day, so I am making ham and pineapple sweet potato bake for dinner, and gingerbread cake for dessert. The Mom of this family is the past president of our school PTO, and they just found out a few weeks ago that their 17 year old son, a senior at my sons school, is battling Leukemia. My heart breaks every time I think about what they are going through. They have long days at the children's hospital, long nights of chemotherapy struggles. Meal preparation is one of the last things on their mind right now, yet a warm, hearty meal can give them the strength they need to fight this battle. The meals are being organized through Food Tidings, a free online meal scheduling service.
Food Tidings helps to organize meals for families of the sick, as well as for new parents, after a funeral, and other times of unforeseen emergencies. The program has a section for people to sign up the family for a meal calendar, and a section for people to sign up for a day to provide meals. Families receiving meals can customize meal preferences according to any food allergies, likes/dislikes, and in the case of the family I am cooking for, foods he cannot eat (raw vegetables, eggs) because of the risk to his immune system. Food Tidings even sends a reminder email, to those who sign up to provide meals, so if you forget which is your day to cook (like I did), you get an email 48 hours in advance!
In addition to Food Tidings, I found a few other care/meal calendar services:
Meal Train: Real time meal calendar, reminder emails, invitations via email or Facebook, ability to customize meal preferences.
Care Calendar: You can organize "help teams" from churches and other groups to provide care. In addition to meals, you can provide other services, such as home and lawn care, housekeeping, rides to the Doctor, etc. Care calender will also provide health status updates via a personal family "blog". There is a place to submit photos, such as new baby photos.
Meal Baby: A meal registry service for new parents, those recovering from surgery, etc. Also provides an opportunity to purchase gift cards for family and friends.
Take Them A Meal: In addition to schedules, provides recipe and food tips.
Lotsa Helping Hands: Offers the ability to create a whole community of volunteers, and announcements to keep the community informed.
Aren't these wonderful services? And they are all free! Meal calendars like this are perfect for PTA/PTO's, church groups, families, friends, and neighbors who want to help those who need meals, whether just for a week or two, or for longer periods. I am sure you know someone who could use meal/care assistance. Be a good neighbor/friend this year, and help to organize meals for someone in your community who needs help!