Food on Alpha (30 ideas)

Team Roles, meals, recipes, allergies, preparation, hospitality, budget, cultural

Updated over a week ago

A simple but filling meal at the start of each Alpha session helps people feel welcome and relaxed and it provides a space to share common experiences where the stranger becomes a friend. Food on Alpha makes it easier for guests who come straight from work or school, and it also encourages people to show up on time!

Here are some budget-friendly and creative ideas from churches around the world:


1. Gather a team together! Most people are happy to help volunteer for a season or two-- whether it's with shopping, cooking, setting up, serving, washing up or preparing coffee. Make sure that you get help with these tasks.

2. Appoint a Meal Coordinator that is separate from the kitchen team if your Alpha is over 50 people. This person has more of an administrative role and oversees the kitchen team. They coordinate menu planning & budget, meal preparation, purchasing food, food safety, meal servers, and clean up.

3. Prioritize food safety. Make sure that your kitchen team has gone through basic food safety training. Ideally, have one person with their food safety certification on the team. Post up hygiene guidelines as a reminder.

4. Ask existing church groups to help. For Alphas with under 25 guests, you could ask your Life Groups and Women's Ministry to contribute food on a rotating basis (this could be cooking onsite, or potluck-style). This helps to foster a missional approach to small groups.

5. Invite previous Alpha guests to help. At the last session of Alpha, use the Feedback Forms in MyAlpha to find out if current team members and/or Alpha guests would like to help serve on the next Alpha Food Prep Team.


6. Check with your city hall for a food rescue program. Some major cities encourage restaurants and local shops to donate food to charities instead of wasting food.

7. Ask shops in your neighbourhood to donate just once. Always go in person and explain that Alpha is about welcoming all people, no one is turned away, and it is inclusive. Leave something in writing so they can check with their supervisor and contact you later. Churches have received free meals, fresh produce, day-old bread & buns, and even meat in bulk during hunting season.

8. Include Alpha costs into your church missions budget (food, weekend away, etc). Put together a proper pitch to the pastors and church board. Visit the Alpha Canada website to gather statistics and stories about the effectiveness of the Alpha course.

9. Take up an offering at a Sunday Service to cover Alpha expenses each season. Invite an Alpha guest to share their testimony or show an Alpha testimony video.

10. Alpha sponsors: Prayerfully ask specific Christian business owners if they would be willing to sponsor your Alpha meals (either a few or all). If you do find sponsors, be sure to update them regularly with inspiring stories!

11. Plan your menu ahead of time so you can watch for sales on non-perishable items. If you don't have a designated Meal Coordinator, ask a few moms to make a meal plan for the 11 weeks of Alpha. Moms are amazingly resourceful!

12. Check with your local butcher and ask if there is a discount for bulk orders and/or for non-profit organizations. They may even deliver it to your door!

13. Professional catering: As your Alpha grows you may need a caterer. The disadvantage is that it often raises the cost of the meal. Or you could do a hybrid version and get gluten-free meals catered but then provide the main meal in-house.

14. Host Alpha in a café or restaurant and negotiate a deal for guests to purchase the food at a reduced price. Ask around and see if church members have connections to restaurant owners or food providers.

15. Guest donations: After week 3, invite your guests to make a contribution to the cost of the meal by providing a secure or enclosed box for donations.


16. Always provide servers who can portion out the food onto plates so everyone gets at least one helping. Avoid buffet style where people serve themselves and can take as much as they want of one item. Invite people for seconds after everyone has a plate.

17. Pasta & meatballs: This meal is ideal for the first week of Alpha since the number of guests can be a little unpredictable. Keep the meatballs separate for a meat-free option. Cook up a big batch of noodles and have plenty of jars of spaghetti sauce on the side, ready to mix if needed. Add garlic bread and a big bowl of salad with dressing on the side.

18. Gather guest information by using the sign-up form in MyAlpha. Distribute this at the end of your first night of Alpha to gather info about your guests' dietary restrictions or food allergies.

19. Add allergy trigger cards for dishes with potential allergy triggers (eg. this dish contains gluten and dairy, or this dish contains nuts).

Why? Eating food together lets others know they are worth the time and effort, that they matter and are valued. Jesus often ate with his disciples and followers. It’s a simple act of service that reaps huge benefits.


20. Same meal each week: Go with a theme such as "Taco Tuesdays" or "Wraps on Wednesdays" where the meal is the same each week. Include a wide variety of lettuce, chopped veggies, tofu, turkey or chicken, and grated cheese. It's easy to prepare and cost-effective too. Guests know what to expect and look forward to it each week!

21. Breakfast bar for morning Alphas. Provide cereals, muffins, and oatmeal in a crockpot with a variety of toppings that you can purchase in bulk (nuts, cinnamon, granola, coconut, chocolate chips, raisins, brown sugar, honey, nutella, jams, etc.) along with bananas and apples that guests can slice up.

22. Dessert Night Alpha: If your Alpha is a bit later in the evening (often during summer months), you could provide mini cheesecakes, lemon tarts, cupcakes, sandwich cookies, cream puffs, etc.). Check Costco or other stores that sell desserts in bulk. And/or could provide a coffee bar with lattes and specialty coffees.

23. Seasonal theme: Be creative with your meals and have fun. One church did a whole red & pink food theme around Valentine's Day. Everything was red or pink! (This might also work around Halloween...)

24. Potluck Dinners: The name might be outdated but not this tried and true style of providing food for everyone. Team members can bring food for the first three weeks and then encourage guests to sign up to bring a dish for the following weeks.

25. Multicultural theme: Each week, celebrate a different culture represented by the team and guests on Alpha. This is similar to the potluck style but with a theme. Your team could provide food for the first three weeks and then encourage guests to contribute a dish based on the cultural theme that evening (eg. dumplings, bibimbap, sushi, tacos, kebabs). Include a fun trivia question to see which table gets served first!

Great idea: 💡 I asked Alpha guests to submit recipes each week as a way to promote community and coming together for a meal. We received enough recipes for each week of Alpha and more! We put together our own Alpha cookbook and we use it every time we run Alpha. (Julia from St. Gregory's Parish, Ontario)

26. Online Alphas: Encourage guests to submit a favourite recipe and in your weekly email to guests, you can include a specific recipe that they can try out during the week. You could compile the recipes into a PDF cookbook and send it to all your guests after Alpha is done.

27. Alpha for Youth: Pretty much, anything goes. Teens are happy with pizza or hotdogs every week, and don't need elaborate table settings. One church ran Alpha for Youth before Sunday morning service and provided cereal in Red Solo cups with a variety of toppings, fruit, and milk. They were so happy to have free food!

28. Ice cream sundae bar: Buy vanilla ice cream in bulk and visit the Bulk Barn for toppings: sprinkles, pretzels, coconut shavings, caramel chunks, brownie crumbles etc. Add in some fruit like bananas, blueberries, raspberries and voila! Summer bliss.

29. Pies, pies, pies: Ask teams and guests to bring a pie on the last night of Alpha! It can be sweet or savoury, homemade or store-bought. Provide a sign-up sheet and include some ideas for pies at the bottom to spark their ideas. This is a fun way to be creative.

30. Recipes for large groups: Here are some meals for large groups that churches have suggested. Full recipes can be found on Pinterest or a Google search. On some websites, you can even filter by dairy-free, gluten-free, etc.

  • Baked Penne Pasta

  • Beef Dip Sandwiches

  • Butter Chicken on Rice

  • Cheesy Taco Zucchini Boats

  • Chicken Pot Pie Casserole

  • Lasagna & Garlic Bread

  • Roasted Veggies & Flank Steak

  • Slow Cooker Classic Stew

  • Slow Cooker Pulled Pork on Buns

  • Soup & Sandwiches

  • Spaghetti & Meatballs

  • Stir Fry Noodles & Veggies

  • Taco Bar (with nacho chips & salsa)

  • Turkey Chili & Cornbread

  • Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

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