Want to help a family who has lost a loved one? Here’s how to handle food for a grieving family.
Sadly, last week we lost a dear friend from our church. Spending time talking to the family and coordinating help with other church members has reminded me how important this service is to a grieving family and how to do it in a way that eases their burden. I have been on both sides of this situation and want to share some hints I have discovered.
Food for a Grieving Family
It seems that food has always been a way to show love and comfort to a family who has lost a loved one. Feeding people is a very tangible way to demonstrate our love to them at a time when we cannot really ease their emotional pain. Anyone who has been on the grieving side of this knows that there is little energy to shop or cook, even for oneself, never mind for family which may be visiting from out of town. Also, many grieving people lose interest in eating, though they need nourishment to cope with this hard time.
Providing food for families at this time can be a wonderful blessing but can also cause added work and stress if not done carefully. It is important to provide what they need without overdoing it, so they don’t have to throw food away, make room in their freezer, or feel burdened.
Perhaps the biggest help one can be is to actually take on the task of coordinating food donations. The coordinator can find out how many people are likely to be eating on any given day, schedule the drop-offs at a convenient time, and make sure that not everyone is bringing the same dish. There are online food trains and apps to help schedule and provide sign-ups.
Gift cards to local restaurants can also provide meals weeks after when the urgent needs have already been taken care of. They can also give the family the space to choose when and how to use them.
When in doubt ask the family what would best serve them. Often there is a “spokesperson” for the family that can help identify needs for feeding.
General guidelines for food donations:
- Ask if there are any food allergies or foods to be avoided
- Prepare food that is easily eaten anytime and can be easily reheated or frozen
- Provide finger foods that are easy to just grab without heating
- Provide “snackable” foods which don’t necessarily require a sit-down meal time
- Provide finger desserts that do not require refrigeration
- Bring your food in disposable containers that the family does not have to wash or return.
Specific food suggestions:
- Sliced ham or turkey breast with rolls
- Barbecue pork in a crock pot with rolls
- A sandwich/deli tray with rolls (possibly divided up into ziplock bags for storage)
- Pasta casseroles (Use caution – people often receive too much of this)
- Cut-up veggies and dip or hummus
- Fruit – washed and divided grapes, apples, oranges
- Cookies or brownies
- Breakfast idea- consider making up a basket of breakfast choices like bagels and cream cheese, croissant, instant oatmeal packets, jam, and peanut butter.
- Include paper goods and plasticware with your food donation.
- Drop off some canned beverages, especially if there a number of out-of-town guests.
- Include resealable plastic bags with any large deli, veggie, or fruit tray. Better yet, dismantle the tray ahead of time and place these items in their own bags so they will stay fresh and fit in the fridge.
Food for a Grieving Family: One Sample Recipe – Barbecued Pork Sandwiches
One whole pork loin
bottled or homemade barbecue sauce
Place whole pork loin in a large crock pot or electric roaster. (Cut in half if it will not fit in your crock pot.) Add 1/2 cup barbecue sauce & 1/4 cup water. Cook on high until falling apart. Shred meat with two forks. Add approximately 1/2 bottle of barbecue sauce, to taste. Return to crock pot or place in storage containers. Serve hot with rolls for quick sandwiches. This freezes well in plastic bags. If you are only bringing food to a small family, keep some of this for your own dinner or freeze to take to another needy family in the future.
If you need some more resources on how to help a grieving family we suggest the following blog posts:
Vicki’s has a blog post about helping children after a crisis.
You can listen to an interview with Connie Stultz on handling grief.
Wondering what the five most comforting funeral foods are, according to the Houston Press?