Food and a funeral?

No-food ban for Pennsylvania funeral homes is lifted.

Last month I read an interesting article in the York (Pa.) Dispatch, about funeral homes and foodservice. The article was prompted by the lifting of a fifty-year-old ban that prohibited food from being served in Pennsylvania funeral homes. Four other states have a similar ban. 

“We have had families request food hospitality—anything from cookies to finger sandwiches,” Ernie Heffner, funeral director at a West Manchester Township funeral home, said in the article. “It’s been uncomfortable to say no because the law hasn’t allowed it. We as providers of service should never be in a position to tell a customer no.”

Heffner added: “Families never get together for any event without food except during funerals in Pennsylvania.”

Now that the ban is lifted, some funeral directors say it wouldn’t be easy to implement a foodservice program. Space, expertise, and food safety and sanitation issues were all listed in the article as impediments to starting a foodservice program.

The article got me thinking: Is foodservice in funeral homes a natural business extension? I’m from the South, and food is a major part of every gathering, funerals included. But there’s something uncomfortable to me about eating in the same place as my loved one’s body. We normally eat at a church, restaurant or family member’s home following a funeral. To be fair, I’m not sure which of the other four states have the no-food ban, so I can’t say for certain if the funeral homes I’ve been in are even allowed to offer such a service. But even if they were, I don’t think it’s an appropriate place to sit down for a meal. I normally want to get outta dodge as soon as possible.

I suppose for some it might be a relief to be able to have one more thing checked off the to-do list when planning a funeral, something, thankfully, I’ve never had to do myself. But I’ve heard it’s a lot more work and hassle than you’d think, especially considering the mental state you’re in after a loved one’s death.

I’d love to hear what you guys think. Are foodservice programs at funeral homes a good idea? Sounds off in the comments section below, or shoot me an email at [email protected]

Update: I came across this story today, about a funeral home in South Carolina that is building a Starbucks coffee shop on its premises to provide foodservice to its customers and community.