Take Them a Meal helps you to lighten others’ burdens

Mike Miller  ·  Sep 01, 2013

Grant and Andrea De Vries didn’t have to worry about fixing dinner every night after their second child, Lydia, was born in early March.

The Samaritan Ministries members from Washington state had plenty of friends who visited takethemameal.com and signed up for specific nights to do just that: take them a meal.

The free service is a dream-come-true for anyone trying to schedule meals for families who are struggling with illness, adjusting to a new baby, or going through other challenging circumstances. Those taking part pick a day and key in what they’re bringing, and the organizers can let them know what a family’s allergies, likes and dislikes are, as well as good drop-off times.

“We asked for meals every other day for a few weeks,” Andrea says. “It was so convenient for friends and family to choose a day and share what they were planning to bring. It was such a blessing to have it coordinated without me needing to be too involved.”

More than 2 million served

What started in late 2007 as a way for a Virginia woman to help out a burdened family has become an internationally utilized tool, with more than 2 million meals being scheduled. Co-founder and chief operating officer Adina Bailey heard that her friend, Rachel Beery, had a sudden “heart event” and would be in a hospital for a long time.

“I wanted to do what I could to help her,” Adina says, so she took it upon herself to organize meals for the Beery family.

“I knew they needed meals with their large family, but I also realized they needed to be spaced out over time or they weren’t going to be really helpful.”

The emails and phone calls became overwhelming after two weeks, though, so Adina asked a family friend at the church if he could write a program so the scheduling could take place on the web. Scott Rogers said yes, and Take Them a Meal was born.

“We never thought it would go beyond that,” Adina says.

But it did when another church friend got sick, this one with breast cancer. That family asked if they could use the online tool, “so Scott switched it around so anyone could set up a schedule, just like we did for the Beerys.” Then word of mouth took over.

Now takethemameal.com gets about 30,000 hits a day from the U.S. and several other English-speaking countries, including a lot of use in Australia. It has also branched out to perfectpotluck.com. That site is built on the same organizing principle as takethemameal.com, but is geared toward one-time events and making sure that a variety of items are brought. Originally intended for dinners following memorial services, it’s now being used for school picnics, church gatherings, and Sunday school classes as well.

Take Them a Meal is set up to be easy to use for both coordinators and those signing up. That’s one of its key features, Adina says, since in medically and emotionally trying times, complicated/confusing doesn’t help things. TTM also offers a help line for people to call if they’re having trouble setting up meals or a schedule.

The site doesn’t require an account. To set up a meal, you simply go to the site, click on “Meal Scheduling,” and then the “Create a Schedule” button. An easy-to-understand form shows up that allows you to fill in your name as coordinator and the recipients’ names, their address, when meals start and stop, which days of the week they’re needed, and any notes for special information, such as allergies, best times to deliver meals, foods liked or not liked, or best place to deliver.

The coordinator can then enter email addresses for messages to be sent out with a link to the schedule; copy the link and send out emails on their own; or send out an email with a last name and password.

Those who want to help out simply navigate to the user-friendly schedule page and input their information. They’re also able to see what others are bringing, helping them to decide what will best work for their turn.

Other information can be found at the site. Take Them a Meal offers:

  • Recipes of several meals that can be cooked ahead, easily transported and preserved until they’re needed.
  • Food transportation tips.
  • Insights into difficult times a family may be experiencing and possible ways to help them.

And if someone you know has had meals set up for them but you’re too far away to take one, you can even send a meal that has been prepared by a restaurant that partners with Take Them a Meal. Meals ship every Monday, serve from three to four people, and cost from $39.95 to $63.95 plus $9.95 for two-day shipping.

Lightening the burden

Like Samaritan Ministries, Take Them a Meal wants to lighten the burden for people going through difficult times.

“I believe the site has been a way to really put our Christian faith into action and to be able to support others who are doing that as well,” Adina says. “The taking of a meal can minister to someone so deeply, and you’re caring for them in a tangible way, but it means so much more than that. I gain encouragement every day from the work I get to do on the site, just by seeing how other believers are caring for each other and doing all they can for each other in difficult times. It’s really inspiring.”

Also inspiring has been the way Christians have tried to reach out to Americans suffering through disasters, whether man-made or natural. Churches and individuals used Take Them a Meal to help those affected by Colorado fires in 2012 and Joplin, Missouri, tornado victims in 2011.

TTM is also allowing people to sponsor meals to be sent at the end of September to families, faculty and staff members of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut. That school, of course, suffered the tragedy of the December 2012 school shootings and Take Them a Meal wants those connected with the school to know that they are still “close to our hearts.” Sponsors will be charged the $50 cost of the meals, which will each feed four to six people, with any extra money raised to be donated to the school.

The rest of the time, profits to keep Take Them a Meal afloat are made by sending out meals for those who can’t deliver them personally is one way. Contributions are also made, Adina says, and Take Them a Meal is taking its first careful steps into selling advertising spots.

“It’s been a privilege to work on this site,” the homeschooling mother says. “We are just amazed at how we see people step up and care for one another.”