Meal Program FAQ

How many volunteers are needed to serve a meal?
House A: 8 to 12 volunteers is optimal, but no more than 15.
House C: 4 to 7 volunteers is optimal, but no more than 8.

How many people can our group expect to serve?
House A: Plan for 110 people, plus your group. Average cost is $450, depending on your menu.
House C: Plan for 25 people, plus your group. Average cost is $150, depending on your menu.

How long does meal service last?
Service continues for a minimum of one hour, and until families have stopped coming through the buffet line.

What if our food has not finished cooking and it is time to serve?
If the food is not to temperature, don’t panic! Continue cooking until the required internal temperature is reached. Our families are so appreciative of a nutritious and safe meal, and are grateful for the time and care you put into preparing it.

May we solicit donations from stores or restaurants?
Since the House has a partnership with many local businesses, we ask that you do not solicit donations from local businesses to fund your meal.

May we wash and chop our produce at home?
All food must be prepared onsite or may be purchased from a commercial retailer. We cannot allow any food to be handled at home. This includes chopping raw vegetables, marinating meats or preparing baked goods. Examples of commercially prepared food include roasted chicken, ready-to-serve desserts, and frozen or fresh entrees from a grocery store, Costco, or a restaurant.Commercially prepared hot foods must arrive at the House within 30 minutes from time of purchase. If the internal temperature is less than 140 degrees, the item must be reheated to 165 degrees.

What types of foods should we prepare?
Foods that hold well on a buffet and hold well as leftovers are preferred. Families enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains when possible, and family-style comfort foods. Ethnic food goes over well as it is something different. To encourage variety, we ask that you consider serving something other than spaghetti or tacos.

What are some available resources to help with menu planning?
Our Meal Program Recipe Book (Updated March 2018) and Pinterest Page are great resources. Websites such as can be helpful as well. You can also check out our online calendar to see what has been served in previous weeks. Our online  Food Quantity Chart can help you with how much you will need to purchase.

What is the most common mistake of first time groups?
They do not get their entrée going soon enough. Preheat your ovens on arrival. You want to get your entrée in the oven as soon as possible, and then you can move on to your side dishes. Another common mistake is to overcrowd the ovens or the pans which requires longer cooking time. Use only one rack in an oven if at all possible. Fill the hotel pans just part way. If making something like meatloaf, make smaller loaves and more of them rather than fewer, larger loaves. Don’t forget to take advantage of food prep shortcuts such as purchasing grated cheese rather than blocks of cheese that need to be grated.

Are there any foods we need to avoid?

  • Non-pasteurized juice and milk products.
  • Raw seed sprouts, such as alfalfa sprouts.
  • Undercooked meat, fish or eggs.
  • Alcohol: No alcohol may be brought to the house, including the use of it as an ingredient in on-site food preparation.
  • Eggs must be pasteurized. Note that the fresh eggs most of us purchase are not pasteurized. Liquid eggs such as Egg Beaters are pasteurized.

Do we need to prepare specialty meals for vegetarians or those with allergies or dietary restrictions?
We have found that the best way to provide appropriate food for the majority of our family members is to offer a variety of foods. However, some of our families may have questions or concerns of possible food allergies or sensitivities so you will need to know the ingredients of your meal.

Should we offer a choice of entrees?
There is inadequate prep time, and you will tend to run out sooner as guests will often want to try some of each (wouldn’t you?).

Are BBQ grills available?
BBQ grills are available from May 1-September 30 but must be reserved in advance. Note that BBQ grills require additional cleaning following your meal. Please take this into consideration when planning your menu.

What equipment do we need bring?
We provide all the equipment you will need to prepare and serve your meal including plates, napkins, silverware, cups, pots and pans, and service pans and platters, and serving utensils.

Should we bring ice or containers to package leftovers?
We have ice machines and provide Ziploc bags for leftovers.

How are meals served?
Meals are served buffet style. At House A we have a commercial buffet line with hot and cold wells. Your group will serve from behind the buffet. At House C, we use steam tables on a counter buffet line which is self-service.

What if we need to cancel the day of our meal due to illness affecting our group?
If you need to cancel on the day of your meal, notify both Eleanor Garrison at 206.838.0621 and the House Manager at 206.838.0618. In addition, please consider making arrangements to have food delivered from an area restaurant as families will return from the hospital at the end of the day, having made no plans for dinner since they thought it was being provided.

What happens if no group signs up to serve a meal?
In general, we do not solicit groups to fill in on open meal dates. Families are on their own.

May I bring my children so they learn the importance of volunteering?
Everyone coming with a volunteer group must be a minimum of 13 years of age. This is strictly enforced due to the fragile nature of so many of our children. We want to avoid exposing them to the frequent colds and sniffles of younger children as well as more serious communicable illnesses such as chickenpox.