How COVID Grew Us – Dinner in a Bag

Crockpot Meal Bags

In March of 2020 when local schools closed, suddenly children were home all day, and caregivers needed to feed children three meals a day instead of one. We realized with deepening concern how many families lived with food insecurity. Glenn, the chef who’d been leading our cooking classes, suggested Tikkun Farm begin to make dinners for our families.

I gulped. His suggestion was beautiful. And terrifying. I couldn’t imagine taking on a feeding program of that magnitude. That is beautiful work LaSoupe does in our city.  For a week I didn’t respond, thinking of all the reasons we couldn’t do this. Finally, I called, sharing my fears.

“We don’t have a commercial kitchen,” I said, “I can’t imagine how we could possibly cook that many meals.”

“We’ll just do what we were already doing,” he replied. “We will prep the ingredients, and families will cook it themselves, in their crockpots. Just like we do in the cooking classes. We can even use the same recipes.”

“Oh…,” I breathed. Yes, I could imagine this.

We had been offering this kind of food support to families for years thanks to LaSoupe.  They  supported our first children’s summer camp, by sharing their “Cincinnati Gives a Crock”  program with us: donating food, sharing recipes, and showing us how accessible this cooking model was for families in our community. Since then we’d offered crockpot cooking lessons to children and families in many variations. I knew we could change this up again to support our families during the pandemic.

“Ok,” I said, “let’s try it.”

The first week, we sent out 18 crockpot meal bags, and then 40, and 75 the third week. By the end the end of June we were sending out 300 meals a week, and still do. These meals support homeless families who’ve moved into hotels during COVID, elderly neighbors concerned about leaving their homes, single parents suddenly feeding children who usually receive two meals at school, disabled veterans, and more.

Soon we learned we were doing much more than feeding 300 families.

A grandmother wrote to tell us about her granddaughter with developmental disabilities. Despite many attempts, this grandmother could never get her granddaughter to help with the family meal until the crockpot dinners showed up. Now she helps every week. A high school boy, whose father died a few years ago, had stopped eating with his mom and sister. The week the crockpot lasagna arrived, they prepared it together, eating as a family for the first time in months.

These stories reminded me of what I’ve always known.  Eating together is good medicine. It doesn’t just feed the body; it feeds the soul.

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