The freezers at Edwards House Meeting & Retreat Center were full of food when the Coronavirus hit Massachusetts, forcing the facility - part of the Southern New England Conference's Framingham property - to stop hosting gatherings.But thanks to the Edwards House staff, the food is not going to waste.
Every weekend, Kitchen Manager Mike Forcier cooks up and individually packages 25 meals, which he delivers free of charge on Mondays to the Shadows Shelter in Ashland, an emergency shelter for women.
Retreat Center Manager Kate Ostertag said Forcier suggested putting the food to use to help people nearby, since it had already been purchased. Ostertag contacted the main office of the South Middlesex Opportunity Council, which operates the Scudder House, a home for women, on the Conference property. They suggested she contact the Shadows Shelter.
"The timing was incredible," Ostertag said. "I spoke with Ilene Gingras, House Manager there. She shared that the organization had just decided that sheltering in place was needed to keep residents safe. This included residents no longer visiting grocery stores to prepare their own meals. They were very happy to accept our offer of meal delivery once a week."
Forcier, who is also the General Manager of Dining Services at Boston College, developed a detailed plan for defrosting, preparing, packaging and delivering the microwaveable meals in a way that ensures they are always kept at the proper temperature. He also makes no-contact deliveries of the meals. His process was approved by local health officials.
Forcier said preparation begins on Wednesday or Thursday, when he starts defrosting items. It continues through the weekend as he prepares the meals, then properly cools them. On Sunday he packages them in individual containers for delivery on Monday. He advises that they be eaten that evening.
Meals have included barbecued chicken thighs with macaroni and cheese and roasted broccoli, Szechuan chicken stir fry and chicken parmigiana with tortellini.
Forcier, who lives on site at Edwards House and usually cooks for weekend groups, said if felt like the right thing to do, especially since the Conference is still paying its employees even while the conference center is closed.
"It feels really good to be able to make a small contribution during such a challenging time," she said.
Although Edwards House is currently closed, requests for future bookings are being accepted. The Edwards House staff team looks forward to resuming hospitality to local churches, non-profit organizations and educational groups as soon as public health experts determine that it is safe to do so.
Tiffany Vail is the Associate Conference Minister for Communications for the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ.