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Emergency food kits distributed to housebound residents in Snohomish County

Homage Senior Services created 1,000 kits that can feed someone for 10 days.

LYNNWOOD, Wash. — At 93 years old, Robert Kennedy doesn't get out of the house much anymore.

Weekly deliveries from Meals on Wheels are a lifeline for the retired Boeing electrical engineer.

"I don't have to go to the store to get groceries," he says. "I have trouble walking so it eliminates that problem."

But what happens if a storm or disaster keeps Meals on Wheels from making its weekly rounds?

Along with its regular meals, the agency is now delivering emergency kits containing 10 days worth of non-perishable foods. They're providing peace of mind for Kennedy.

"In case of emergency, or anything, I've got food," he says.

Meals on Wheels is preparing 1,000 emergency food boxes. They're considered more important now than ever with climate change increasingly making wintertime deliveries a challenge.

"The intent is to provide a safety net for our Meals on Wheels clients who are homebound," says Leah Hammon, director of nutrition for Homage Senior Services, which runs the Meals on Wheels program in Snohomish County.

Concerned that wind or snow storms could cut off people and power from those who depend on their services, Meals on Wheels wants the emergency kits to bring a bit more stability to the situation.

"It feels unpredictable right now," says Hammon. "The interesting thing about this year is we had snow in the first week of December and as long as I've been with the program we've never had it that early."

The 1,000 kits cost Homage Senior Services $31,000. Homage is looking for donations to help cover those expenses.

Meals on Wheels has seen the pandemic steadily drive up demand for its services, and with food costs rising, it isn't slowing down.

"The demand for Meals on Wheels increases each year, and the pandemic cast a bright light on the severity of the issue," says Keith Bell, CEO of Homage. "Funding for the emergency packs is provided through grants and private donations. However, with recent funding cuts, we have had to rely even more on private support and donations from our generous community to keep our seniors fed and cared for."

For Robert Kennedy, a long, unpredictable Northwest winter will be a bit more manageable thanks to some forward thinking from people he has come to depend on.

"They are family," he said.

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