General Support
How to Start a Meal Train

When big life events happen, it’s difficult to keep up cooking nutritious food. Whether your friend has just had a baby or a coworker’s family member passed away, you want to show them that you care by bringing them a meal.

But how do you do it in a way that won’t leave your loved one with countless casseroles in their freezer because many people in their life decided to cook for them as well?

This is where a meal train comes in handy. If you haven’t heard of a meal train, the concept is a very simple one, and getting it on track couldn’t be simpler. A meal train is when a group of family members and friends organize meal deliveries for someone going through a major life event.

How does a meal train work?

When someone is in need, a meal train is a caring way to make sure that person doesn’t have to think about grocery shopping and cooking while also being well-fed.

Setting up a meal train is not difficult, but organization is the most important thing to keep in mind when planning one. Meal trains often focus on dinner, but they can also include breakfast and lunch.

Good organization is needed because no one wants to receive mac and cheese three days in a row, and also because dietary restrictions should be considered, to avoid sending a chicken casserole to someone who’s a vegetarian. It’s always a good idea for the meal train organizer to reach out to the person in need to find out about any dietary restrictions in their household.

How can you set up a meal train on Give InKind?

There are numerous ways to set up a meal train, and one of the easiest online tools for doing so is Give InKind.

To build a meal train, start by creating the recipient’s free InKind Page.

Next, add the dates for the period you want the meal train to be available for. You can choose up to three meals a day to cover breakfast, lunch and dinner, add a request for groceries, or even meal delivery gift cards.

Don’t forget to add the dietary preferences of the recipient, as well as any allergies they or someone in their household may have. You can use the Special Notes section of the InKind Page to do so.

When your InKind Page is complete, share it with friends and family, so anyone who wants to contribute to the meal train can claim their dates and times. You can share the link directly via email or on various social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter.

Finally, don’t forget to visit the page every day for the duration of the meal train so you can spot any issues and make sure all times are covered. You may also want to respond to messages or post Updates on your InKind Page to friends and family members who want to contribute.

Tips for coordinating a meal train

  • When possible, it’s a good idea to split the organization between multiple people, especially if the recipient’s schedule is subject to change for the duration of the meal train. This will ensure no gaps in the meal deliveries even if you have days when you don’t have time to deal with the responsibility.
  • Try to encourage all contributors to look at the meal calendar before deciding what to bring to avoid too much repetition. For example, if you see that the recipient is due to receive a cheesy pasta dish on Monday and Wednesday, encourage them to not schedule something similar for Tuesday, too.
  • When dropping off food, encourage supporters to use containers that they won’t need back, such as disposable or recyclable ones. This way, the recipient won’t have to deal with the stress of keeping track of containers, wash them, and return them at a later time.
  • All food should be labeled if possible, so the recipient is aware of the reheating or baking instructions. Make sure to include a note on the meal train page to remind contributors to label and date containers.
  • The meals offered should be as complete as possible. For example, if something works best with a salad on the side, try to include it, even if it’s just a bagged salad kit. The same goes for toppings such as sour cream or diced tomatoes, for example — if the meal calls for them, try to prep and deliver them, too.
  • Set some rules for dropping off. Depending on the situation of the person in need and the length of the email train, you may want to encourage no contact dropping off. Often times, recipients might not be up for chatting or hosting (which you can also note on your InKind Page Settings), so offering to leave the food outside their door followed by a text could be the thoughtful thing to do.
  • Meal trains are not just for homemade meals. If someone wants to contribute but can’t cook, they can still pick a day to help and send a meal delivery gift card directly from the Care Calendar. This way it lets the recipient get exactly what they want.
  • Be mindful of drop off times when you’re scheduling the Care Calendar. This is particularly important when the meal train is set up for a new mother. Keep the nursing and napping schedule in mind as much as possible, so the drop off takes place during waking hours.
  • Finally, besides dropping off food, you can use the Care Calendar to help the recipient(s) in other ways, such as child and pet care, senior support, home services, transportation, and more.

Set up an InKind Page Today

A meal train is easy to put together for someone who is going through a life-changing event. From new parents to people going through a period of grief following the loss of a loved one, a meal train is a quick way to make sure they get nutritious meals delivered straight to their door. Create your free InKind Page in just 5 minutes and see the support start to flood in.


Give InKind does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. We have an affiliate relationship with many of the advertisers on our site, and may receive a commission from any products purchased from links in this article. See Terms & Conditions.

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