What is a Mealtrain??
If you’ve taken a childbirth ed class with us, or met with us about Postpartum Doula Support, or read any of our recent newsletters, you’ve heard us talking (raving) about Mealtrains! Our Doula practice and our families are located in the Hudson Valley region of New York and in our community, Mealtrains are big when a fellow community member is in need of a bit of extra support. Having a new baby certainly falls under that category! A Mealtrain is when a bunch of people take turns sending over meals to someone in need so that they can eat without having to cook for themselves. It is truly as wonderful and supportive as it sounds!
New/early parenthood leaves little, to no time for cooking or even simple meal prep. New parents are exhausted, often bed bound, and likely unable to even use both hands at the same time, due to a very little, very needy new baby in arms! New parents also need to be nourished. An incredible amount of energy is used every moment while learning how to sustain this new life. Providing meals for these new parents is one of the more supportive, loving acts you can share.
We like to use Mealtrain and Take Them A Meal- both free online services that allow your friends, family, neighbors, community- to sign up for a specific date to bring you or send you a meal. Recipients can organize their meal train to be on certain days (maybe you only want weekdays or every other day), to only be for certain meals (maybe you only want breakfasts!) and to include dietary notes, drop off/delivery details, and anything else important for participants to know.
Many families in our community have moved here from the city and/or have friends and family that don’t live nearby. The great thing about a Mealtrain is that you can sign up for a date and have food delivered from a local restaurant! Take Them A Meal website has an added function where you can have their own meals delivered no matter where the recipient lives! We find that out-of-town family and friends shy away from the Mealtrain because they can’t cook a meal and drive it over themselves. However, delivery is a fantastic and welcome option. You can also “donate” money to a Mealtrain so the recipient can use the money to order their own take out- or you can purchase gift cards to restaurants or delivery services like Door Dash directly through the Mealtrain website!
Here are our tips for Setting Up or Participating In A Mealtrain:
Tips for setting up a meal train:
•Delegate the job to a trusted friend or your Postpartum Doula! Make sure they are reliable and invested so that this doesn’t get dropped by the wayside.
•Collect email addresses from new(ish) friends and community members ahead of time if you’re sending your Mealtrain link via email. You can also share the link once it’s created and email/text it to anyone.
•Keep a cooler outside your front door for participants to leave food in so they don’t knock/ring.
•Leave explicit instructions to leave food and not knock/ring, in the instruction section of the Mealtrain.
•Ask that participants deliver food by a certain time so that you don’t find yourself waiting around too late to eat.
Tips for participants of a Mealtrain:
•If you sign up for a slot, follow through. Remember that you are providing a new family their dinner- if you don’t bring it, they don’t eat.
•Be sure to read the instructions on each Mealtrain! People have a variety of allergies, requests, and drop off details.
•Check if they are feeding additional family members who are staying over or additional children and be sure your portions reflect that.
•Deliver food in containers you don’t need back.
•Add in dessert, a drink, or even some breakfast for the next morning if you can! The extra thought goes extremely far with someone who is getting little sleep and doesn’t have the bandwidth to cook or prepare food.
•Remember that Mealtrain delivery is NOT a social visit. Simply drop off the food and text that it’s there. It’s a selfless act of support!
Wondering what you can make for your next Mealtrain sign up? Check out our Postpartum Cooking blog for inspiration! Do you have any experience with a Mealtrain- either being on the giving or receiving end? How about tips or tricks you’ve picked up along the way? If you have any questions about the Mealtrain, reach out. We’re passionate about supporting Pregnant, Birthing, and Postpartum people and love to talk about exactly this sort of thing!