A vision of the community pantry

When someone is in need, we can all help. If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the past year and a half of life during a pandemic, it’s that we can come together as a community. I believe it is in our nature. I always thought that people were naturally good, wanting to serve, wanting to help. I won’t go into the details of why people do what we do, and I admit that I know it feels good to help out.

Knowing that I can do something with my hands to feed another, or say a prayer for someone in need, or even make one of my friends smile because I gave them the opportunity to make a friend.

Everyone wants to help

Last week I was devastated by the news that another friend of mine and his family have been affected by the virus in a way where everyone has tested positive.

Even my toddler godson was showing symptoms and their longtime helper developed pneumonia early on. As I was worried about my best friend and racking my brains about how I could help, I remembered a conversation I had with my sister when my niece (my first goddaughter) was recovering from IIH, lived alone and couldn’t leave her apartment because she lost her sight.

When my niece recently had a health problem, I spoke to my sisters daily to see how Jessica was improving.

They continued to thank everyone on Facebook for the “Meal Train”. When I asked what it was, they said friends and co-teachers were sending food because my niece, Jessica, couldn’t leave the house. I thought it was a wonderful idea and a great way to give the opportunity to other people who would like to help my friend in this situation.

What started as mums on a block caring for each other after the birth of a baby quickly spread to a community building website
Easier said than done

Preparing a meal for the family is no small feat. There’s menu planning, recycling leftovers, timing to bring everything to the table, and of course, there’s cleaning and washing up afterward. That doesn’t even take into account the challenge of battling a deadly virus, giving birth or mourning the loss of a loved one.

It is exactly at these times in our lives that we need help with the most basic responsibility of feeding our families.

Even on a good day, it’s hard to get a meal on the table for our families.

Michelle Aventajado

How does the meal train work?

I had no idea how to plan a meal train when I asked my best friend if I could organize one for her. Of course, I turned to Mr. Google and was able to find a bunch of resources that made it easier to start the process of bringing together all of our mom friends and their helpful energy.

I found a free website with options to upgrade, send gift certificates, offer childcare, and even plan potlucks. The website is based in the US, so gift certificates wouldn’t apply here in the Philippines, BUT all the other features translate well for busy moms running households like us.

Coordinating with my friend Maggie was easy to do when you were ready to mobilize the other moms. Even Maggie’s husband helped create the page for DINNER, while I created the page for LUNCH.
To do magic

Planning a meal train is quite simple. If you are the one cooking and preparing your meals at home (which we are all at home again, due to the increase in cases), you also know that if you roast a chicken, it takes minimal effort to prepare a second chicken for another family.

So while you’re enjoying your meal in the safety of your own home, you can send another meal to a family in need of a little help. You can choose to prepare something for your own kitchen or you can send something from a nearby restaurant. The family in need receives a nutritious hot meal and everyone eats well.

Providing as much detail as possible about the meal you’ll be sending ensures that the recipient won’t receive adobo every day.

Using the website, you can book your day and with the instructions and guidelines set out by the organizer of the page, send a meal that you prepare in your own kitchen or that of a nearby restaurant or caterer that you organize and arrange for the recipient.

The recipient can even share what was sent by posting updates for meal train attendees to see that their contribution to the meal arrived safely, was appreciated, and appreciated.

Posting a photo for the whole group to see alerts meal train attendees, so they can also see the family they’re caring for, that’s fine.

Moms tend to build community when we’re together anyway. We share information – where to find items on sale, how to treat fever naturally, and which grocery store has a favorite item on sale. Through this experience, I found a website that offered an amazing way for us to come together to help a friend of ours through a difficult time. It took me minimal effort to just send messages and links to my contacts and people I knew would be willing to help out.

Tips for Planning a Meal Train

  • Give as much information, including delivery pins, allergies, and preferences.
  • Specify a delivery time and coordinate with the recipient to set up ways to accept deliveries as they arrive.
  • Be sure to use containers that the recipient doesn’t have to worry about returning
  • Provide drinks, dessert, or even napkins and dish soap for the recipient if they can’t leave the house to run errands.
  • Consider the dishes you send so that if there are any leftovers, they can be reheated or frozen.
  • Sending frozen, ready-to-heat meals is also a great option.
  • You don’t have to be a slave to the stove! If you prefer to send from the recipient’s favorite restaurant, you can do that too.

And if you’re sending something to someone who doesn’t have time or needs soup to heal, check out this recipe that Gelli and I make whenever someone comes into our house. has sniffles.

For more information on Meal Train, check out their website, Facebook or Twitter. – Rappler.com

Norma P. Rex