Meals From the Heart Guest Chef Program Guidelines

Thank you for your interest in the Meals From The Heart Guest Chef Program. Our meal program is vital to our mission of providing a delicious home-cooked meal for families—who often return to the House exhausted after a long day at the hospital and are grateful for this simple gesture. These guidelines will help you plan a successful meal!

Here Are The Highlights

  • All food must be prepared and cooked on-site at Ronald McDonald House® or at a licensed food establishment and delivered promptly.
  • Brunch, lunch or dinner can be prepared 7 days a week.
  • Please visit https://rmhc-centralillinois.org/provide-a-meal-heart-ronald-mcdonald-house-charities-central-illinois/ to schedule your meal.
  • Prepare a rounded meal (entrée, side dish: vegetable, fruit, etc.) – we are happy to give menu suggestions, or look at past menus for ideas!
  • For the Springfield House, plan a meal for 20-25 people.
  • For the Peoria House, plan a meal for about 30 people.
  • We request your menu in advance to post announcements for families.
  • Groups of 2-6 volunteers are ideal, but we ask that groups be no larger than 15 volunteers.
  • Minors under age 15 are welcome to participate, but must be supervised by a designated adult. All children must be healthy and without any contagious symptoms.
  • Please know that during your time at Ronald McDonald House, you may or may not have the opportunity to visit with families. Families have varying schedules based on their child’s medical needs, so if you do not meet families, please know they will enjoy & appreciate your meal when their schedules allow!

Food Preparation Guidelines

  • ALL meal preparations must be completed in their entirety in the Ronald McDonald House kitchen. (Preparation of foods includes, but is not limited to, defrosting of meats, washing and/or chopping of vegetables, mixing of any ingredients prior to arrival, etc.) Any foods prepared off site by any individual or group CANNOT be accepted. The only exception is foods prepared in licensed retail establishments/commercial kitchens (restaurants, caterers, etc.) and transported directly to the House, maintaining proper food safety temperatures.
  • Food leftovers from outside events or meetings cannot be accepted.
  • Only packaged and unopened foods and fresh whole fruits and vegetables purchased from a retail grocery store or wholesale provider can be accepted.
  • Please know the ingredients of your dishes: Some of our guest families may have questions or concerns of possible food allergies. Dishes containing peanut, tree nuts, wheat and soy must be clearly labeled. It’s a good idea to keep food packages handy for reference until the meal is completed. ALL SHELLFISH IS PROHIBITED. Please do not serve shrimp, lobster, crab, oysters, clams, mussels, scallops, etc.
    Visit these websites for more information on food safety:

Serving Requirements

  • For the Springfield House, plan a meal for 20-25 people.
  • For the Peoria House, numbers will be posted SOON.
  • Please plan to prepare enough food for the above numbers of people. However, these numbers can fluctuate as the occupancy of our House constantly fluctuates. We will do our best to confirm these numbers with you the week before your scheduled date.
  • Customary serving time for lunch is between Noon and 1:00 p.m., dinner between 6:00-7:00 p.m. and weekend brunch between 10:00-11:00 a.m. Groups can generally arrive 1 ½ to 2 hours before the meal to begin preparations. Please let us know if you require more time.

Meal Planning

  • Menu plans are due 2 weeks before your scheduled meal, as we like to post announcements for families and avoid the same menu multiple days in a row.
  • Springfield Menu plans can be sent to Springfield Program Director, Katie Alsup, at ka@rmhc-centralillinois.org OR 217-528-3314.
  • Peoria Menu plans can be sent to Peoria Program Director, Brian Replogle, at br@rmhc-centralillinois.org OR 309-401-2525.
  • Prepare a rounded meal (entrée, side dish: vegetable, fruit, etc.)—we are happy to give menu suggestions!
  • Drinks are optional. We always have water, milk, coffee and tea available free of charge, and Coke products are available for purchase at just $0.50-$0.75. We also have an ice machine.
  • We welcome and encourage your group to join our families for the meal. Please add any additional people to the recommended RMH total.
  • Some very broad, general guidelines to help you in your planning:
    • Poultry or meat: 6 oz. per person
    • Rice and Grains: 1.5 oz. per person
    • Potatoes: 5 oz. per person
    • Pasta: 4 oz. per person
    • Vegetables: 4 oz. per person
    • Green Salad: 1 oz. per person
    • Dessert: Allow 1 slice of cake, tart or pastry; 4 oz. of creamy desserts or 5 oz. of ice cream per person

Upon Arrival

  • Parking for the Ronald McDonald House in Springfield is located on the north side of the building & across 7th street in the lots marked "Ronald McDonald House Guest & Visitors."
  • Parking for the Ronald McDonald House in Peoria is in the lot across Spalding Avenue to the south. There is short-term parking on the south side of the building in the alley for unloading.
  • All guests to the House must be buzzed in at the front door & sign the Guest Chef form.
  • Rolling carts are available for transporting food and supplies.
  • All coats, purses and other items of value can be stored in a locked closet at the front desk. Do not leave your personal items lying around the kitchen area unattended.

The Kitchen

  • Feel free to spread out in our large kitchen, but always leave some free room at one end for guest families.
  • You may have the use of 1 convection oven, a baking oven, and 1 stove top. We also have a gas grill available for use in the garden area.
  • All dishes and “regular” cookware are provided. You would need to bring any specialty items such as an electric skillet, pressure cooker, rice cooker, etc.
  • If you want to bring along table covers or centerpieces (no live flowers; no candles), we have 7 tables.

Serving Your Meal

Your meal will be served buffet-style from the serving counter in the Great Room. Please know that you may or may not have the opportunity to serve families when your meal is ready. Families have varying schedules based on their child’s medical needs, so if you do not meet families, please know they will enjoy & appreciate your meal when their schedules allow! You are welcome to sit and eat with the families.

Leftover Food Storage:

Families returning to the House after lunch or dinner will help themselves to the food packaged in the “leftover” refrigerators. Package as follows:

  • All leftover food should be stored in plastic bags or plastic containers. The House has some containers available, but donations are always appreciated!
  • All leftovers should be portioned into individual servings whenever possible.
  • Mark each bag or container using a permanent marker with the date, contents and store in the leftover refrigerators.

Clean Up:

  • All dishes and cookware MUST be washed in the dishwashers. Please do not hand wash any items unless they are simply too big for the dishwashers.
  • Clean large dishes in hot soapy water
  • Rinse dishes with hot running water
  • Hand washed dishes must air-dry on the countertops before being put away
  • Please also wipe down any countertops that were used during meal preparation

Health and Safety

For the safety of our children and parents, ALL participants of this program and visitors to our House should be healthy and free of any flu like symptoms, fever, or exposure to any infectious disease. Gloves are available for all visitors, and we require frequent hand-washing while in the House.

Thank you!

On behalf of all the guest families here at Ronald McDonald House, we thank you for giving your time and talents in providing a healthy, comforting, home-cooked meal. We look forward to meeting your group and showing you around our House!

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