Bailey Reflects on her First Three Months with Family Meals


My name is Bailey Werner, and I have been serving as the Family Meals Program Coordinator since early September. As such, I spend most my time in the Christ Church kitchen in Harvard Square assembling and packaging single-serving, microwavable Family Meals with a team of volunteers. From my vantage point in the kitchen, a few things have really stuck out to me about the Family Meals Program.

First, I was immediately struck by how many moving parts make up the weekly functioning of the program. By the time we’re packaging meals in the kitchen, most of the food has made an impressive journey through multiple stages of sorting and shipping and coordination. Bags of vegetable quinoa and teriyaki chicken and potatoes in all shapes and sizes are trucked over to the kitchen each morning from the Food For Free freezer, where they landed after they were picked up from university and corporate dining halls around Greater Boston. Over the span of the next four or so hours, these prepared frozen foods are broken down and repackaged into meals that then get picked up, sorted, and eventually shipped out to agencies around the city who have identified those who may benefit from receiving these meals. It’s a careful orchestration that requires many hands, a few trucks, and quite a few spreadsheets; it’s efficient if not graceful, and at the end of the day, countless boxes of food have been rescued and hundreds of people have been fed.

Second, I have found myself consistently impressed by the amount of consideration and genuine care that goes into the assembly of each meal. While making as many meals as possible is a goal, of course, the quality of the meals remains of utmost priority in the kitchen. The volunteers and I work hard to ensure that each meal contains a hearty serving of protein, vegetables, and starch, and that these meals look appetizing and taste good. Since replacing our system of handwriting meal labels with a new label printer, we’re able to be even more specific with what we call each meal— instead of serving people “Chicken and Grain,” we can serve them “Oven Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Couscous,” and thereby offer them more agency in what they eat. Putting so much care into the assembly of each meal definitely takes a good amount of time and energy, but it is, I have learned, a priority that we all share in the kitchen.

Last, nothing has floored me quite like the seemingly inexhaustible dedication of each and every one of our Family Meals volunteers. Making Family Meals is no easy task. A 10-pound bag of frozen rice takes some real hammering to break down into a usable format, and standing up and working in a kitchen for four hours requires quite a bit of energy. Yet, many of our volunteers return every week— some twice a week— and offer an incredibly generous donation of time, elbow grease, and positive energy. I imagine (or, at least, I hope) that our volunteers know that Family Meals would not at all be possible without their help, but it is hard for me to express exactly how important their ongoing care and support for the Family Meals Program is. For this (and for teaching me the ropes of the kitchen work when I was brand new!) I am so grateful.
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