Meal delivery service for grieving family
July 15, 2014 6:52 AM   Subscribe

One of my co-workers has lost both parents within 3 months of each other. We are not super super close, and so far she hasn't accepted my offers of specific, practical things I can do to help (watching her kids, going to grocery store. etc.). I'd like to make her life a little easier anyway, so I was thinking about some kind of meal delivery service so she wouldn't need to cook for a little bit.

She is married and has two children, ages 4 and 18 months. Her children are both allergic to peanuts and the younger one also has an egg allergy, so a service that makes some sort of statement about allergens would be great. Is there anything like this out there? Google is not helping me a lot.
posted by feathermeat to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What city?
posted by zachlipton at 6:54 AM on July 15, 2014

Response by poster: Sorry--this is in the Triangle area of NC--Morrisville, NC specifically. Anything in Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill ought to work.
posted by feathermeat at 7:00 AM on July 15, 2014

Not everyone reacts this way, but grief can sometimes trigger a very strong sense of protectiveness over one's remaining loved ones. Given the allergies and how young her kids are, I would worry that there's a huge chance that receiving food from an unknown (even if vetted) source could turn into something to stress out about rather than something that was helpful.

Also given that she's been turning down your offers for personal help, is there a way you can help her with any work she's got going in the office? Maybe taking some annoying task off her plate for a while?
posted by jaguar at 7:00 AM on July 15, 2014 [22 favorites]

Schwan's will deliver in her area. It's not MY gig, but she and her family may enjoy it.

Their web page addresses common ingredients and I'm sure that if you call them, they can suggest items that the whole famly can enjoy.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:05 AM on July 15, 2014

I definitely wouldn't give food. The allergies are a BIG concern, but there is also the issue of personal taste. When there was a death in my family people sent us all sorts of foods, and a LOT of it went uneaten because no one in our house liked tuna casserole/corned beef/etc. I also think a meal delivery service, depending upon how it works, could be burden. Maybe cooking for her is comfort. And hey, people bringing over casseroles and food following a death is pretty common. You may just be adding to an already excessive pile of food being given.

Honestly, I'd just leave them be. You've expressed your condolences, you've offered to help, and she has declined. I really understand that you want to help and that your motives are pure, but you said yourself that you aren't close... At some point this would feel intrusive to me. Having to repeatedly fend off/acknowledge people's offers (especially from people who I'm not close to) could make things harder, not easier.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 7:07 AM on July 15, 2014 [20 favorites]

It's kind of you to want to help aand I have the same instinctive response in such circumstances, but is it possible she just doesn't want that sort of assistance from a non super close colleague? Instead make her work life easier, in whatever way isn't inappropriate at your workplace. She may not even notice, but that is presumably not why you want to help out anyway.
posted by tavegyl at 7:09 AM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would be super creeped out if a coworker I wasn't close friends with did something like this for me. It's a level of generosity not in keeping with the nature of the relationship.
posted by Andrhia at 7:10 AM on July 15, 2014 [4 favorites]

Oh! I missed that you're not close.

Yeah, don't do this. You've done enough.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:12 AM on July 15, 2014 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: I maybe should clarify what I mean by "not close"--we are very close colleagues, as in we form a department of two and interact basically all day every day. When I say we are not close, I mean that we don't hang out outside of work a lot or anything and I wouldn't call us best friends. I don't know if that changes your answers any, but I don't believe she would find this intrusive. I understand the concerns, but it wouldn't be an inappropriate gesture. I am really looking for the names of allergy-friendly food services if anyone knows of any.
posted by feathermeat at 7:16 AM on July 15, 2014

Being someone with food intolerances and a husband with a severe peanut allergy, I wouldn't eat food unless I had the full ingredients. Especially if they have a peanut allergy - which I'm assuming is a severe peanut allergy that could, ya know, kill them - don't get a meal service.

If you want to give any food, I say fruit basket or veggie tray. Those are pretty safe options. Otherwise a gift card to their nearest grocery store.

Personally, I'd drop off a basket of fruit (if anything) then leave it alone.
posted by Crystalinne at 7:22 AM on July 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

I understand you're trying to be kind and it's very good of you, but if she's already declined your offers of help you should respect that.
posted by winna at 7:22 AM on July 15, 2014 [8 favorites]

Best answer: you've offered to help, and she has declined

This. I appreciate people at work's good intentions but this sort of thing can feel uncomfortably personal in relationship that I want to keep professional. Jauar's suggestion of covering some of her work duties is an excellent one. If you really want to do something outside of the office, 919dine does offer gift certificates and looks like it would both have a range of peanut/egg free options and deliver to them. Or a pizza gift card if you know for sure that the kids eat it.
posted by Candleman at 7:25 AM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Dealing with grief is a Big Deal and I think you need to recognize that your insistence on helping (by sending over food), even if the gesture is well-intentioned, may just add to their stress. As others have said, you have offered your help and it's kind to continue to do so, but best to be respectful of how they say you can help.
posted by BillMcMurdo at 7:26 AM on July 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Food isn't the way to go here. This is probably already being handled in the way she prefers.

What does she need at work? Does she bring her lunch? Does she stop at Starbucks on her way in? Is there some place you can give her a gift card to?
posted by RainyJay at 7:28 AM on July 15, 2014

Allergies make it much harder. With little kids, can you get her family a season pass to a local playground or kids' theatre or something open-ended in the schedule with a long expiry date and say "hey, this is a really sad time, and I wanted you and the kids to just have some good times together". Starbucks cards are good for colleagues too.
posted by viggorlijah at 7:30 AM on July 15, 2014

I was thinking gift card, too - Whole Foods, maybe? You could take up an office collection, if you don't feel comfortable giving her something only from yourself with an obvious cash value.
posted by something something at 7:31 AM on July 15, 2014

Personally, I get very angry when people give me gifts that I have told them I don't want. That means they're really doing it for themselves.

If you want to offer her something again, try a grocery service, rather than a meal service. But make sure you ask her.

And then please leave off insisting on gifts.
posted by zennie at 7:42 AM on July 15, 2014

Response by poster: Okay, not to threadsit, but you guys have really got the wrong idea about this. I'm not insisting on gifts (wtf??). You will have to take me at face value when I say that I know the level of our relationship and that it would not be annoying for her to have meals provided for a few days for her family. Promise. We are close enough for that. I have not been bombarding her with demands to assist. I asked, once, whether she wanted me to keep her kids while she went to the hospital to be with mom. She said it was covered. I asked on a separate occasion (just prior to her mom's death) whether she wanted me to go to the grocery store for her and she said they were good at the moment. I am not attacking her with requests to help out by any means. I know for a fact, because we have talked about it, that cooking is a pain in the ass for her. I can assure you that she would appreciate not having to do it for a couple of days.

So please, either answer the question or leave it alone.
posted by feathermeat at 7:48 AM on July 15, 2014 [7 favorites]

Well, most people who give me unwanted gifts think they're being super helpful, and perhaps that has poisoned my perspective of the whole enterprise.

In my experience with catering you have to contact the vendor to find out if they use any peanut products. Many don't, for allergy reasons. And then work with them to order things that don't have eggs in them, and put that in writing, in all caps, in the name of the things you ordered.
posted by zennie at 8:30 AM on July 15, 2014

Beware that "peanut allergy" can include all sorts of other nuts, so check.
posted by zennie at 8:32 AM on July 15, 2014

Culturally, where I come from food is exactly what you send to someone when they are grieving. For family, it's usually food I've purchased or prepared, since I know what they like.

For coworkers, generally several people chip in for a gift card to a local deli or restaurant we know they enjoy. Many restaurants do take-out, so you could just call up a few that you know she enjoys or look at reviews of places near her home.
posted by inertia at 9:11 AM on July 15, 2014

I participated in a meal service organized for good friends who had lost a family member -- someone in the friend circle organized volunteers to cook meals and bring them over to the house. The work involved was mainly in scheduling who cooked each night and coordinating everyone. We were given guidelines as to the dietary restrictions so we could keep within that.

Part of the benefit here apart from the food was that a steady stream of friends were knocking on the door with food for a few weeks. They might just drop it off or be asked to stay and chat or sit in silence or whatever was needed at the moment.

This process was definitely discussed in advance with the mourners and was their preferred way to engage with their friends for a while.
posted by cubby at 9:15 AM on July 15, 2014

I know for a fact, because we have talked about it, that cooking is a pain in the ass for her. I can assure you that she would appreciate not having to do it for a couple of days.

Then maybe just ask her what restaurants have food that her family likes and that she's ok with the safety of the preparations, and drop off some take-off or have them deliver.

Food allergies, especially nut allergies, can really, really, really complicate things, and not always in ways immediately obvious to people who aren't used to dealing with them. It would be a shame for you to go to the trouble of doing something nice and then them not being able to use it because they don't trust the preparation process or ingredients. I would stick to gift cards or else explicit instructions from her on what, where, and how.
posted by jaguar at 9:53 AM on July 15, 2014

I would go to the customer service counter at Whole Foods. Explain your situation and the kid's allergies, and ask for help putting together a gift basket or a few prepared meals. These would ideally be shelf stable or frozen, so she can choose when to eat them. Products that say "Vegan, Peanut Free, Egg Free!" on the packaging will probably be more welcomed than a possibly egg thickened tuna casserole.

Depending on how awesome the customer service guy is, you could even just give them a call and a budget and pick this up wrapped and ready. I know the Whole Foods in Austin does delivery, but it's the chain HQ. Not sure if they've rolled this out elsewhere.

To me, in this situation, a gift card would just be another obligation. Another errand to run. Likewise with a hot dish, something to worry about spoiling or storing. When both spouses in a married couple die, the paperwork is tremendous even with a well organized estate. (Where as, with a surviving spouse, inheritance is pretty straightforward.) While she might get an immediate flood of support and food, she'll be dealing with this for a while, not even to mention emotionally. I'd consider sending something additional in a month or so as well.
posted by fontophilic at 10:51 AM on July 15, 2014 [5 favorites]

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