Being part of a community means helping out when people need help. Helping out can mean offering to pick up children from school, running errands, making phone calls and preparing meals. Organized Jewish home has a nice series about chesed meals so I don’t need to add much here, but I will reiterate- if you want to be helpful by making a meal do make sure to avoid foods on the families do not use list and do make sure to use the appropriate Kosher certifications, if relevant.
I wanted to add that after a birth even if you can’t send over a full meal, sending over small snacks (cut of fruit, muffins and the like) are definitely appreciated, in particular for nursing mothers in the middle of the night. Sending over something that is freezable is also useful as food may not be needed the first week but as help tapers off having something on hand is greatly appreciated.
I also wanted to add that for Shiva people tend not to ask what to make for meals and you have a variety of family members with different tastes and desires. Ice cream generally goes over well with everyone involved. It may not be a meal, but it is helpful.
I did a quick survey of friends once before making some meals for someone I didn’t know and besides the usual staples (casserole, lasagna, soup, chicken), I also heard about chili with nachos or tacos as a fun meal. It is definitely a good idea to hear what other people are bringing so they don’t end up with a week or two weeks worth of lentil soup.
A useful resource for planning meals is: Take Them A Meal . This site will allow groups to organize meals for families, hear what the families do and don’t eat, see what meals are already being prepared, and quickly organize. The site is also a wealth of ideas for chesed meals. For instance, getting a hospital cafeteria gift card for a friend who is in the hospital or whose family member is in the hospital.