Saturday, August 2, 2014

How to Respond: When it’s your turn to bring food

The two most downloaded posts on this blog are Unique Gifts for Hospital Patients and How to Respond When You Learn That Someone is Ill or Injured. While I’ve expanded quite a bit on the “Unique Gifts” post, there are areas of How to Respond that could do with more in depth discussion.

 What to bring when it’s your turn to cook or stock the refrigerator can be challenging. Food isn’t cheap, so you don’t want to see it thrown out or not be eaten. Yet this is very common in these situation for the following reasons:

• They didn’t like it
• It wasn’t appropriate for their diet
• There wasn’t a way for them to store it
• It went bad before they could eat it.

With that in mind, consider the following:
• Ask about:
-       - food preferences
-       - dietary needs and restrictions
-       - allergies
-       - what their favorite comfort foods and recipes are
-       - whether they lack interest in food- is it tasting too bland or too strong
-       - what types of meals they’ve had in the past few days
-       - what their storage and cooking capability might be- do they have a freezer, large enough pantry etc. 

If you are coordinating food for the family, make sure that volunteers are given the information above. Using organizational websites like Lotsa Helping Hands  not only helps to remind people when it’s their turn to cook, but they can see what others have made or plan to make.

• Make arrangements for food drop off. What time is suitable for them to have you stop by? Is it better than you give the food to a family member who is heading in that direction? While many people love the visit that goes with the food, there are times it’s better to just drop it off and leave.

• Stressful situations can cause people to eat mindlessly or have difficulty eating. If they’re just sitting and eating constantly, only bring healthy foods-grapes and raw veggies instead of cupcakes or brownies.  Offer them options other then food, such as taking a walk with you around the block. If they are having difficulty eating, sit down and share a meal with them. Sometimes having someone to eat with helps considerably. Bring a movie for the two of you to watch while you eat.

• Package foods in disposable containers that can be easily stored or frozen and can go directly from the freezer to the oven or microwave. Prep work/storage tips and what to do with left overs should be written on a card and taped to the dish for easy reference. Include ingredients just to make sure there are no surprises.

• Use portion control. A large casserole in one dish isn’t practical for two people. Instead, break up the casserole into single serving sizes whenever possible. The more perishable the food, the more likely it is to be tossed out uneaten, so aim for shelf stable and freezer friendly. Since it’s important to eat fresh fruits and veg, only provide what they can reasonably eat that day or the next. Don’t make a salad that will serve six if there are only four people eating.

• If you don’t cook, no worries, bring items to stock the refrigerator and pantry such as: milk (soy and almond are good options for the lactose intolerant); eggs; cheese;  yogurt; cottage cheese; homemade waffles, French toast, muffins, scones and quiches that can all be frozen; lunch meats; fruit juices; butter/margarine, jams and jellies; bread; crackers; cut up veggies and dip; fruit; a treat from their favorite bakery; good quality prepared soups; nuts and nut butters (if not allergic); tuna fish; dried pasta. Avoid processed foods as much as possible. Best to skip the sweets, salty snacks, and sodas. Gift cards to local eateries are also helpful.

• Take all the fixings and prepare a meal in their home. The smell of food being prepared can be calming and enticing even for those who have difficulty eating.

• Cook what you know. Simple is often better.

• In situations where a person is very ill and in the hospital, family and friends will be spending many hours there and cafeteria food grows old very quickly. Consider bringing them food from their favorite carry out; or a homemade meal that is easy to transport and where left overs can either be stored at the hospital or taken with you.  A cooler bag with drinks and healthy snacks is also helpful.

Recipes and Other Helpful Resources

• Filling Edna Mae’s Freezer: The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drumond makes food for husband’s grandmother. She offers good tips on how to prepare items that can be frozen in single serving sizes. 

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