In early December of 2017, a chef friend called me and during our conversation, it somehow came up that we should figure out a way to feed families in need during the holidays. I’m not even sure how we got on the topic, we were probably joking about it, but that discussion got me thinking that there was no reason why we couldn’t. I just needed to figure out how.
After some consideration, I decided to create a program, under my company’s Change Your Attitude…Change Your Life (CYACYL) brand, by which people could purchase a dinner on the chef’s catering website for someone they knew was in need. We would then ship it to that person’s home with the note, “This meal is sent with love.”
We were so excited about the thought of helping others. To be honest, I had no idea if this would work, but I figured that we had nothing to lose. If we fed one family, then it was one less family that went hungry. That would be a good thing!
Three weeks before Christmas, the CYACYL Feed a Family initiative was born. We offered two meal options, turkey or ham, that were each full course dinners that fed 8 to 10 people. Each pre-cooked, boxed meal included meat, potatoes, green beans, stuffing, cranberry sauce, salad, rolls, butter, dessert. We provided everything a family would need to have a nourishing, festive dinner!
A few people purchased meals for people they knew, but the majority bought a meal with the request that we send it to a family in need. I couldn’t believe the response; I was taken off guard. We had many meals ordered and I didn’t know what to do with them. It was a wonderful problem to have!
I reached out to a friend who works at Covenant House in North Jersey and asked if she knew anyone in need. She excitedly provided a list of recently homeless families that were placed in their transitional housing. We fed every one of them!
I can’t adequately express the joy that I felt with such an accomplishment. It was a successful first attempt, more than I could have imaged. I thought that was the end.
Then, last year around the middle of November, something amazing happened. People reached out to me and asked it we were feeding families again. I did not expect that response and wasn’t planning on doing it again. But, they shared with me the joy they felt from giving in such an intimate way, so I knew we had to take it on again.
With some experience under my belt, I had a better vision of how the program should be implemented. I wanted to cut costs and increase efficiency. In year one, we incurred shipping charges sending each box to a residence. That was money I deemed as wasted as it could have purchased more food. In the second year, rather than shipping to a home, I decided to deliver individually boxed meals to a charity destination for pickup. I asked Chef Todd if he could feed two families of 8 to 10 people for the same price if he added the money we allocated for shipping to his food cost. He said he would make it work! So, that is what we did. Year two, for a $60 meal purchase, rather than feed one family of 8 to 10 people, we fed two!
With the additional meals in 2018, we were able to feed the Covenant House families and all of the abused women and their children living in safe housing provided by Jersey Battered Women’s Service. The feedback was so supportive and encouraging! I knew this had to continue.
It is now 2019, our third year, and the Feed a Family initiative is in full swing. This year we are adding veterans, through the New Jersey Veteran’s Network, to our recipient list. We have been receiving corporate and organizational donations, and will be holding our first fundraiser, a cocktail reception, on November 21. Click to learn more: https://cyacylfeedafamily.eventbrite.com
The Feed a Family initiative has become more than I could have ever imagined. Just think, two friends jokingly talking about feeding families at Christmas, and now their little idea is touching and changing lives. Over and over I am reminded that anything in life is possible. Never think an idea is silly or unachievable. Remember the old saying, “He who takes no chances, wins nothing.”