Lawmakers Consider Bill to Allow Food at Funeral Homes

By Sarah Birnbaum

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Sarah Birnbaum originally reported this story for the March 28, 2011 broadcast of Morning Edition.

March 29, 2011

BOSTON – Massachusetts lawmakers are considering a controversial proposal that would permit food at funerals.
 
The bill would allow funeral homes to serve food at services, wakes and burials. Right now, Massachusetts funeral directors aren’t allowed to handle, serve or prepare food or beverages of any kind at their facilities.
 
David Walkinshaw of the Massachusetts Funeral Directors Association said the ban is quite strict. "Right now, as the regulation stands, if a family comes into a funeral home, just, for example, to make funeral arrangements, a funeral director cannot even offer them a cup of coffee," he said.

Walkinshaw said opinions over the bill are split. Some funeral directors say that mourners ask them for food all the time, and that catering could be a potential source of new revenue.

But others, like Dean Laurendeau, who owns a funeral home in Billerica, say serving food would be disrespectful.
 
I don’t think it’s the appropriate time or appropriate place,” he said. “Just losing my father a month ago, I couldn’t imagine people coming in there, balancing the plates on their knees.”

The Joint Committee on Public Health considers the bill today.

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