The Need to Feed
When words aren’t enough, let food speak love into the situation.
By Erin Chewning
I have an odd confession to make: I, Erin Chewning, have a need to feed. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you heard me right. I have a need to feed. And all symptoms indicate that there is no cure. Come to my house and I’ll confront you with freshly baked cookies and insist that you eat one, or two, or five. I am known to show up on doorsteps with chicken pot pies and can find almost any excuse to bring you homemade cupcakes. Be advised that this “bug” is contagious, albeit appreciated. Once you’ve caught it, you will likely pass it on to others.
I come by the need to feed honestly. As far as I can tell, my mother coined the phrase herself, and both she and Dad are known in my hometown for their skill in the kitchen. I used to joke about them scrambling to fill the belly of any blessed soul who crossed our threshold. But now, I have taken up the same mantle. In doing so, I’ve come to see that this insatiable urge is actually a beautiful tool for ministry.
Jesus Himself saw the importance of food: He fed the 5,000, shared the Last Supper with His disciples, and after His resurrection, cooked breakfast for them. He understood that food is a great equalizer. Yes, it feeds hungry stomachs, but it also opens doors to feed hungry souls. Food bridges the gap between ourselves and others and provides a simple, tangible way to impart the love of Christ. It also reminds us that our own growth is enhanced when we sacrifice time and resources to meet people at their point of need.
We all know somebody who’s going through a trying circumstance: a loved one in the hospital, a friend without a job, or new neighbors who live far away from family. These situations present the perfect opportunity to put your faith in action.
I can already hear the objections from those of you who aren’t confident in the kitchen. “What if I can’t cook?” “How do I prepare a meal for another family, when I barely have time to feed my own?” Have no fear! Take note of the tips below, and you’ll find a great blessing in the service of feeding others.
It need not be gourmet. You don’t have to be a five-star chef to prepare a meal for someone. Whether you’re good or bad in the kitchen, the success of this type of ministry is not contingent on your skill level. The point is merely to minister to someone you care about. If you don’t feel confident enough to cook a meal, then keep it simple. Pick up food from their favorite restaurant, or bring over a do-it-yourself type meal, like a pre-made pizza crust, a jar of sauce, and some shredded cheese. Anything will be appreciated!
You don’t have to do it alone. Families nowadays are constantly on the go. If you feel led to lighten someone’s load by taking a meal but lack the time to do it on your own, enlist the help of friends. If each person contributes, you can easily pull off a meal together.
Utilize your freezer. When I was in high school, my mother underwent surgery, and several of her friends brought us “freezer meals.” They had prepared chicken casseroles, soups, and vegetable side dishes, which all freeze well. So throughout the course of her recovery, all we had to do each night was choose one and pop it in the oven. Next time you make something that could easily be frozen, double the recipe and freeze the extra. You don’t know when someone else might need it.
Never underestimate the power of a bag of groceries. Bread, peanut butter, juice, and cereal might just be the perfect thing for new parents or someone whose spouse is in the hospital. Going to the grocery store is probably the last thing on their mind, so a bag of pantry basics could be far more of a treat than you might expect.
Sharing the gift of food is something you can do. It doesn’t need to be complex; it just needs to come from the heart. “Put on Christ” by caring for someone in need. I promise that you won’t regret it. And who knows? You may even develop the extremely contagious need to feed.
|Etiquette & Common Courtesies
1. Be sure to check with the recipients about any allergies or dietary restrictions to keep in mind when preparing or purchasing food for them.
2. Let the person(s) know you are coming and the approximate time you will arrive. This demonstrates thoughtfulness and respect for their time.
3. Keep your stay short, unless the recipients make it clear they’d welcome a longer visit. Even people who are normally sociable may prefer a bit of solitude to cope with their situation. Try asking, “Do you have time for a 15-minute visit?” and then take your cues from their answer.
4. For a family who may need meals provided for several days or weeks, utilize free online tools such as mealtrain.com or takethemameal.com. These websites allow you to set up an online calendar where others can sign up to bring food on specific days.
5. Disposable aluminum pans are great to use, for two reasons: first, you don’t have to worry about getting your dishes back; and second, the recipients of your thoughtfulness won’t have to deal with any cleanup.