Feel-good food helps families in need

By Jamie Marsh
Originally published in Winter 2011 Madison magazine

Scott Rogers and Adina Bailey
Scott Rogers (‘00, ‘02M) and Adina Bailey (‘99M) work on enhancements to their TakeThemAMeal.com website.

Morgan Stone Langley delivered her second child in January, with a 2-year-old waiting at home. Naturally, her best friend Heather’s first thought was, “What can I cook?”

Rather than whipping up a favorite casserole and dropping it off, Heather opted to throw technology into the mix by using TakeThemAMeal.com, a website created by Scott Rogers (’00, ’02M) and Adina Bailey (’99M). In just a few minutes, she customized a sophisticated meal coordination spreadsheet that all of Langley’s family and friends could access online.

Langley was so impressed by TakeThemAMeal.com that she wrote about the website on her blog, telling followers it was “an incredible gift.” She recommends the site for families with members who have had surgery, those with a death in the family or the elderly.

Testimonials like Langley’s are the best kind of advertising for the website.

‘We’re helping people in times of grief and joy. We’ve made something that was once a burden into something easily organized, so people can focus on making meals and helping loved ones.’
— Scott Rogers (’00, ’02M)

More than 25,000 people visit TakeThem AMeal.com each week, and almost all of them find out about the free service via blogs, Facebook and other social media. “One friend telling another is how we’ve grown,” says Rogers. “Word of mouth has been the best advertising.”

Since the site’s 2007 launch more than 250,000 meals have been coordinated, and people living in every state have used the site. Part of the appeal is the site’s simplicity: Participants log on using the recipient’s name and a password. Then, they sign up for a specific day and list what they’re bringing. Meal duplication is no problem, and food allergy information and driving directions are at volunteers’ fingertips.

Rogers never anticipated the site would be so helpful to so many people. “Take ThemAMeal.com was created in response to one particular family’s need,” he says. When a Harrisonburg-area mother of four was faced with a six-month medical issue, her large network of family and friends were eager to help. Adina Bailey (’99M), the mother’s close friend, was quickly overwhelmed by hundreds of people needing to know what the kids liked to eat and what day food was needed. “I asked Scott if we could put the needs online,” recalls Bailey. “I wanted more of my time to be spent with her kids and at the hospital, not on the phone.” Rogers responded with the first version of TakeThemAMeal.com.

Rogers is no stranger to the volunteer spirit. The media arts and design major served as president of the JMU Student Ambassadors and as a student member of the alumni board. He is active in the Harrisonburg Alumni Chapter and currently serves on the JMU Alumni Association Board of Directors.

The momentum of TakeThemAMeal.com has continued to grow since its initial use in Harrisonburg. “Several people from our first group of users wanted to keep using the site,” Rogers says. A church secretary organized a regular meals ministry, and small groups coordinated snack sign-ups. An 80-year-old fan posted, “Great delight in helping take care of lifelong friends.”

“It must have saved hours in phone calls for my friend,” Leah in Florida wrote on her blog after having surgery. “And they didn’t just bring some spaghetti and bread. We’re talking meat, bread, salad, drinks, dessert … the works.” TakeThemAMeal.com has been very useful for Jacqueline Dost of Atlanta, who used the free service after her husband’s cancer diagnosis. She posted on Facebook saying, “It’s a great way to coordinate meals from our friends with a little input from us.”

With the help of user feedback and testimonials, Rogers and Bailey continue to tweak the site for usability. Both founders say they will do whatever it takes to never charge for the service. “We’re helping people in times of grief and joy,” Rogers says. “We’ve made something that was once a burden into something easily organized, so people can focus on making meals and helping loved ones.”