Looking for a rewarding volunteer experience? I highly recommend cooking a meal for a local Ronald McDonald House. What started out as a one-time thing with a group of friends has turned into a monthly ritual that is both rewarding and humbling. Seeing families with a very sick baby or child is a good reminder that the little annoyances in life really are minor. Here are some tips to organize your own volunteer meal preparation for the Ronald McDonald House.
Each Ronald McDonald House has its own setup and procedures. It’s best to call directly or look for information on the local site to determine the rules, restrictions and guidelines they use. This is also your chance to check out the facilities and find out what options are available. For example, our local house has several crock pots available for use, two stoves/ovens and two refrigerators.
Most often, groups are expect to prepare the meal on-site. Meals should be ready to go at a certain time — 6:00 p.m. at our local house. But that doesn’t mean you’ll see families at that time. They often stay at the hospital and reheat food later. So don’t be disappointed if you don’t get to meet the families.
Choose a Coordinator
If you’re cooking a meal with a group of people, choose one as the coordinator. Our group has one main contact person, but we try to take turns being in charge each month so one person doesn’t always feel responsible. With one person in charge, you’re better able to coordinate all aspects of the meal so nothing gets missed.
Plan a Menu
We like to choose themes for our meals. We build the menu based on the theme. Anyone who plans to help out that month claims a certain aspect of the meal and buys all of the ingredients. Another option is to have one person handle all of the shopping, with each member contributing money toward the cost. Examples of meals we’ve done include:
- Taco night
- Soups and salads
- Pot roast
One pieces of advice: avoid pasta. The families at Ronald McDonald House see a lot of pasta dishes since they’re so easy to make in large quantities. Try to think beyond the noodle. If it were me, I think I’d like to see lots of comfort foods with salads and fresh fruits to balance the richness.
All Hands on Deck
Too many cooks in the kitchen can be a bad thing, but at the Ronald McDonald House, having enough help ensures you get the meal on the table at the right time. After you cook, you’ll clean up your immediate mess. The staff handles the rest. They leave the food out for a set amount of time and then put it away in the refrigerators. You are free to go, but you won’t likely leave feeling empty. You can leave knowing you provided a home cooked meal to nourish the families who stay at the Ronald McDonald House.