“We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”
– Mother Teresa
My mother instilled in me a sense of belonging and responsibility to our community. She continues to make meals for neighbors who have just moved in, have fallen ill, lost someone dear, have brought home a new member to their family, or are recovering from surgery. Each meal is thought out, prepared with love, and presented to help them through their stressful time. I continue to see this sense of community through religious groups, mommy clubs, active adult communities, etc.
Now there is a wonderful new site that can assist these community-minded individuals. The organizers of neighbor meals now have a resource to make this gesture easier for everyone to contribute – meal Train.
Stephen DePasquale and Michael Laramee began meal Train a year and half ago. Michael Laramee’s wife was creating a meal for a neighbor who just had a baby. Laramee’s wife was struggling with the complexity of planning dates, times, meals, communicating likes and dislikes, sharing what others were making, and scheduling delivery times. As old college friends, Stephen and Michael were together one day when Michael shared his wife’s frustration and said, “There has to be a better way of doing this,” And together Michael and Stephen created the meal Train!
Community members can now show support and compassion after significant life events through the delivery of meals using the web site meal Train. The site removes the challenges that Michael’s wife encountered, and allows an easier path to continue one’s desire to be generous. The program assists in the planning and communication details, by providing one easy-to-use site. First thing, you need to create an account on the site. No need to worry, all it requires is your name and email address along with a personalized password. There are no fees associated with this, and you are creating an account for privacy. meal Train accounts are not publicly searchable, and your email address will not be sold. You are creating an account to allow you to join a meal train and access the information attached to that meal train.
Once you have an account, you can start a meal train for someone that is facing a significant life event. You can then invite people through e-mail or Facebook to book meals. Once you have created and invited people to join a meal train, you can enter specific details to share the recipients’ food preferences, allergies, diet restrictions, convenient times for delivery, etc. Individuals joining your meal train can then access these details. The system also provides an automated booking system. Participants can also see what other people are delivering or have delivered. This is helpful in preventing someone from receiving pasta for four straight days. Meal Train will also send you reminders for your booking, which I personally would find very helpful!
Since its inception, the founders have been pleasantly surprised at the immediate popularity of the site. They encountered a problem, created a solution, and have helped communities to continue their generosity in a more efficient way. The site has been featured in magazines from Fit Pregnancy, Real Simple, EatingWell, and many more. Site users are from all 50 states, Canada, and membership continues to grow throughout the world. Meal Train is approaching 100,000 meals delivered through their site, and on an average night sees the delivery of 800 meals. Half of all meals are provided for the celebration of a new baby. Additionally they are seeing communities gathering to create meal trains for surgery, illness, military deployment, and a new neighbor.
Georgia is consistently showing in the top five locations for meal trains, with Atlanta as the hub of activity. Showing that the residents of Atlanta are “very caring and supporting as a community,” said Stephen DePasquale. One such user, Helen from Atlanta, spoke with me about her experiences with Meal Train.
Helen was an organizer within her church group, and was leading the logistics for meals provided to fellow church members. She learned about the Meal Train site from a friend, and was a recipient of a meal train when she celebrated the birth of her daughter. Two weeks after her experience of being a recipient, she started her own meal train for someone who had just had surgery. Helen was thrilled at how user-friendly the site was, as it took her out from being the middleman and gave so many options for filling in the details. She said, “Everyone is won over” after using it just once. She is now a fan and continuous user, and describes it as an “online calendar to set up meals” providing a one-stop resource of details from dates, times, preferences, etc. She finds it most helpful during a condolence meal train. “Because at a time when the recipient does not want to or is not available to answer the phone or e-mail” the train can be setup in a more respectful way.
A typical meal train is setup by a neighbor, family member, church group, mom group, or HOA. So of course, one of my questions to Stephen was how you support those that may find technology as a barrier. (They may not have exposure to or feel comfortable using the internet.) He responded that “they strive to make the process as simple as possible.” So easy in fact, that he has witnessed organizers or participants assisting someone in planning a meal by creating an account and booking their meal on their behalf.
Living in Atlanta and witnessing daily the generosity our community lends to each other, I hope that we will be seeing more meals offered due to this wonderfully easy-to-use site.
Do you know someone facing a significant life event and want to help? Start a meal Train.