How to Set Up a Food Tree


Food trees are a way of providing a person or family with food when they could most use some help, like when a new baby enters the family or someone has surgery, a death or any other kind of need. In the Austin attachment parenting community, we sets up a food tree anytime someone has a new baby. We are able to welcome new members into our AP family and help feed the whole family with love and respect at a time when they need to focus elsewhere–on their new little one.

Setting up a food tree is easy and the benefits are enormous: more time to spend with new baby, less time in the kitchen both preparing and cleaning up, less time at the grocery store, less cost for food. Beyond that, people can experience an outpouring of love and generosity at a time that could normally be quite isolating.

How to Set Up a Food Tree

  • Offer to set it up.
  • Send person/family the food tree questionnaire (below) and ask for an email list of family/friends/co-workers who might be interested in participating.
  • Set up a yahoo group
  1. Upload the completed food tree questionnaire.
  2. Invite everyone from email list to join.
  3. Adapt this message for the group’s home page: “This group is for the purpose of organizing a food tree for the _________ family following the birth of (baby’s name). Click on the Files link to your left then on the file “Food Tree Questionnaire” for details of the foods they would like and  contact information to schedule food drop-offs. Please add the dates you’ll provide food so people can schedule their drop-offs for different days. Thank you!”
  4. Check in with family for start date (since baby’s not always born on the due date and family may want to start earlier or later than they’d originally thought).
  5. Add a note on Sundays (since that’s the default start of week in yahoo calendars) saying, “The family will benefit from # (possibly 2 – 3) meals this week.”
  6. If you’re contributing, you might want to be the first person to drop off so that you can model how to add drop offs to the calendar. You add date to the calendar saying, “(Your name) will drop off (type of food)” and list your phone number so family can call you.
  7. Send message out to food tree group asking people to add their drop off dates.
  8. At end of period family had originally indicated they would like food tree to continue, contact the family to ask if they’d like to keep food tree open and for how long or if they’d like to shut it down. Send info out to group.

The Person/Family Who Will Be Receiving Food Needs to Do Three Things:

  1. Give you a list of emails for people who might like to help (friends, family, co-workers, neighbors)
  2. Fill out the questionnaire below.
  3. In the case of a new baby, contact you once the baby is born to confirm the start day for the food tree.

Food Tree Questionnaire (Adapted from Austin Attachment Parenting)

  • What is your address?
  • What phone number or email address should people use to schedule their delivery?
  • How many people in your household will be eating the food tree meals?  What are their names and what are the kid’s ages?
  • What kinds of foods should we avoid? (Include allergies, intolerances, and those that are not liked.)
  • What kinds of foods do you prefer? (Include favorites of various household members, organic, whole grain, and any other preferences.)
  • If you have older kids, what kind of snacks do they enjoy?
  • When there is a choice, would you prefer a casserole be precooked (so it can be microwaved in individual servings) or frozen uncooked so that all you have to do is put it in the oven and have a hot meal on the table?
  • If someone wanted to pick up a “take-out” meal for you, is there a favorite place/food that you would like?
  • Do you anticipate needing some non-food help? (Help with errands, laundry, play dates with older kids, etc.)
  • How often do you think you would like to receive food?  (Some families like to have more help for fewer weeks while others prefer fewer meals per week for more weeks.)
  • When do anticipate wanting the Food Tree to begin?  (Some people elect for immediately after the birth of the baby, others prefer to wait a few weeks, perhaps until their families have left or until they feel more settled in.)
  • Although it is hard to picture at this time, how long do you think you want to keep your food tree open?  (Don’t worry, we will check with you before closing it – this just gives us some idea when to check back with you).
  • Do you anticipate looking forward to having people stop in to help or keep you company for a bit or do you prefer they drop the meals and run?
  • Anything else we should know?
  • Please send completed questionnaire to _____________ (whoever is managing the food tree).

Photo by hoho3121

This post is part of the 2010 API Principles of Parenting blog carnival, a series of monthly parenting blog carnivals, hosted by API Speaks. Learn more about attachment parenting by visiting the API website.

This post is part of the 2010 API Principles of Parenting blog carnival, a series of monthly parenting blog carnivals, hosted by API Speaks. Learn more about attachment parenting by visiting the API website.

4 comments to How to Set Up a Food Tree

  • rhonda

    awesome! food trees rock!

  • Wow this is wonderful. I always think it’s silly that there is often little or no attention being given to the mom and other family members when a new baby comes, but this is truly amazing. If only people in Belgium had that attitude (bringing food when people are experiencing difficult moments in life.

    • Sonya Feher

      I agree that the new mom and other family need attention too. Maybe you could start a tradition in Belgium: when a new baby is born, when someone dies, when someone moves to a new house.

  • What a great idea! I was spoiled by my MIL staying here for a week after Baby was born and cooking pretty much every meal, but nowadays many people don’t live close to family or have family who can visit that long. I love the idea of everyone in your group doing it for each other 🙂

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