The History of Meal Giving and the Advent of Meal Train®

MealTrain.com's origin story. From one recipient to millions

The Dark Ages:

When a friend is in need, everyone asks "What can I do to help?" For generations, the answer has always been to provide support through a meal. Most people only eat a few times a day but many friends want to participate to show they care and alleviate the recipient's burden. That is because a meal is a symbolic gesture of one person’s willingness to help another. The meal is a vehicle that allows the giving party the opportunity to show they care, that they hope to reduce a burden, and they will be there for the receiving party in the future. This outreach is a true interpersonal connection and is one that helps foster inter-dependence, dialogue, and compassion.

This desire to care for your community, neighbors, and friends ultimately leads to some challenges. People want to help but want to respect personal space and not be an additional burden. Often, the recipient is answering the same questions: What do you like? When are you available? What have you already had? Are there any allergies? and When should I provide support? Coordinating this effort can be just a bit too much for a recipient. Trying to keep track of emails and phone calls on a spreadsheet just doesn't cut it.

The Past:

In September 2009, my wife, Kathleen, volunteered to organize the giving of meals to support a neighborhood family after the birth of a new baby.

As the organizer, she made a list of the family’s meal preferences and preferred dates in addition to collecting names of friends and neighborhood parents who had expressed interest in participating. Once the baby arrived, she sent an e-mail to each family asking them to contact her to book a night.

While enjoying her role, Kathleen was frequently asked the same questions from the potential givers "What days are they available? What do they like to eat? What have they already had? How many should I cook for? Can I reschedule?" In addition, the recipient family was also asking questions: "Who is delivering tonight? Can we invite more people? Someone just called and wants to bring something by, are we available? Can you tell people not to bring any more soup?"

As the number of participants grew, the process became difficult to keep organized. Kathleen mentioned these challenges to me and I remember saying "There has to be a better way." I contacted my friend and software developer, Stephen DePasquale, and we launched the first version of Meal Train in January of 2010.

We decided to call it Meal Train because of the orderly nature of people moving in unison toward a common goal. While we didn't get everything right (i.e. see the first logo imagery that we now describe as the Casserole Apocalypse) we knew we were on to something when we released MealTrain.com to the world on January 20th, 2010.

Casserole Apocalypse

MealTrain.com was first used on January 24, 2010 in Berea, Kentucky by my mother, Monica Laramee, in support of a family who recently had a baby. In that first meal organizing effort, about 20 people participated. Eventually, one of those people identified someone else who could use some support and organized a Meal Train page for the new family and invited a new group of participants. This has repeated for over 13 years and now the site has millions of users each month and has helped organize over 61 million meals. Now, people talk about setting up a Meal Train page like it's a no brainer - so much so that people think it has been around forever. Over the 13 years, it has been awesome to watch the ways MealTrain.com is used to organize meal support and as it continues to expand all around the world.

The Present and Future:

In this complicated world we are living in, the desire to support friends and families is more important than ever. As long as people continue to eat, meals will be an important way to give and receive love and support. In that, we will stay true to our mission:

Meal Train® simplifies the organization of meal giving around significant life events. We strive to simplify and promote interpersonal relationships between friends, families, and neighbors through meals.

We will continue to play a role in helping strengthen communities all around the world, one meal at a time.

Sincerely,
Michael Laramee
Co-founder of MealTrain.com