For more than three decades, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Idaho has provided housing to families with children seeking medical care.
It also has found new ways to help during the COVID-19 era.
When the novel coronavirus gained a foothold in Idaho in March 2020, the organization had to put safety first and made the tough decision to temporarily stop accepting new families not already staying at its new Boise house. Instead, the organization paid for hotel rooms for families it could not accommodate.
“When everything happened, because we had to pull back services, we were trying to look for other ways we could help families,” said Taylor Munson, communications manager at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Idaho.
“They are obviously already in a stressful situation with a sick child, but the pandemic amplified that because there is even more unknown now.”
So, how could their staff keep serving families with kids in need?
The team at RMHCI decided to start assembling lunch boxes filled with meals for families with kids at St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital.
Since March, the staff has provided 4,770 meals to families at St. Luke’s.
“The lunches provided by the Ronald McDonald House have been a true blessing for our families in pediatrics, the pediatric ICU and the newborn ICU,” said Sherry Iverson, director of patient and family services at St. Luke’s Children’s.
“Being at the bedside of their children of all ages is top priority for parents and remembering to take care of themselves is easily forgotten. These lunches carefully assembled by the Ronald McDonald team and then delivered to their room provide a break, healthy food and a chance to reenergize during a very stressful time.”
An additional 920 meals have been provided by RMHCI to families with children receiving care at Saint Alphonsus Health System.
The Ronald McDonald staff provides the lunch boxes four days a week, typically including sandwiches, fruit and chips, as well as snack bags. The total cost of the lunches so far has been about $24,000.
“Without these wonderful care packages, many parents would go all day without food,” Iverson said. “This partnership has been so important during this COVID pandemic.”
Some of the food items are donated from local organizations, while others are purchased by staff and assembled in the kitchen at the new Ronald McDonald House facility, near the St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center.
St. Luke’s employees pick up the meals and take them across the street to the children’s hospital.
“The feedback that we’ve gotten from families and nurses and people over at St. Luke’s is that it’s so helpful because families either may not have money to get food or they don’t want to leave their child’s bedside,” Munson said.
The Ronald McDonald House started accepting new families again at its facility in May 2020. St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital is the only children’s hospital in Idaho, which has led to a strong partnership between the medical center and nearby Ronald McDonald House.
“It has been very collaborative with St. Luke’s. We wanted to make sure what we were going to be doing was beneficial,” Munson said.
The program will continue through the end of March, marking one full year of providing meals, and then the Ronald McDonald House staff will reevaluate for short- and long-term plans, Munson said.
“The pandemic obviously isn’t ideal, but it did allow us find new ways of helping families,” Munson said. “A lot of our focus is family centered care—that’s really our goal, and feeding families is a big part of that.”
Daniel Mediate works in the St. Luke’s Communications department.