Home-Delivered Meal Program Comes to the Key Peninsula

A grant to the KP Partnership will fund collaborative meal delivery programs and more for KP seniors.


In January the Key Peninsula Partnership received a $95,000 grant to bring home-delivered meals to seniors on the Key Peninsula. The collaborative program, named KP Connects Through Food, includes Key Peninsula Community Services and The Mustard Seed Project, and its goal is to deliver nutritious food and also access to resources that will allow people to remain safely in their own homes.

“The program builds upon established programs and partnerships to provide immediate benefits of nutrition, wellness and resource access,” said Susan Paganelli, co-director of the KP Partnership.

“We are working to bring resources and money to the Key Peninsula that require collaboration. It is not in competition with other nonprofits.”

The grant was funded by CommonSpirit’s new Community Health Improvement Grant program. CommonSpirit is a healthcare system that includes Virginia Mason Franciscan Health.

“This is a new opportunity for us,” said Stephanie Christensen, community integration program manager for VM Franciscan. The system’s eight hospitals donated a total of $1.7 million to fund grants of up to $100,000 where at least two nonprofits collaborated to address community health needs.

“Being able to fund the local nonprofits that do the work to address those priorities is really important to us; it will help create a healthier community for all,” Christensen said.

“When the Partnership approached Community Services with the idea of a food delivery program, we were all over it,” said Willow Eaton, executive director of KP Community Services.

“It was right in line with the services we want to provide and the need we know is out there.”

KPCS has provided group meals at their site in Lakebay for years, but that program shifted to drive-through pick-up and home-delivered meals during the pandemic. “We learned a lot about what a home-delivered program looks like during the pandemic, including the demand on volunteers,” Eaton said.

“One of the things that we ran into during the pandemic is that people needed food but didn’t feel comfortable reaching out to an organization,” Eaton said. “But they might feel comfortable reaching out to a neighbor or family member. People know when they have somebody near them who is struggling.”

The KPCS program is called Neighbors Feeding Neighbors. The chef will prepare frozen meals, packaged in reusable microwaveable containers, every Monday. Anyone 60 and over is eligible for three meals per week. Friends or family members can call or come in during office hours to place or pick up orders. The first meals were delivered Feb. 15.

KPCS asks for the recipient’s name, address, and age bracket to assess the program and plan for the future, but providing information is not required.

The Mustard Seed Project is in the planning stages for its program and hopes to deliver its first meals this spring. “We have not delivered meals before, so getting everything in place takes time,” said Carolyn Benepe, nutrition manager at TMSP.

Benepe worked as the nutrition director of the Sheridan Senior Center in Wyoming where they prepared 100 home-delivered and 300 congregate meals.

“As a dietician probably the most meaningful work I did was making meals for older adults,” she said. “I loved when they got together to eat, but it was the home-delivered meals that kept them in their homes.”

“We have named the program Mustard Seed Meals,” said Program Director Julie Crane. “It brings in the community, our transportation and cafeĢ volunteers, and all of our staff to be sure all the wheels are turning.”

Benepe and Crane describe both Neighbor Feeding Neighbor and Mustard Seed Meals as nontraditional since they are open to anyone 60 and over who needs the meals and are not limited to low-income households.

The other nontraditional aspect of the programs is that they will provide more than just a meal. The visits themselves will decrease social isolation and build trust. Each household will get information about resources that might allow seniors to safely remain in their homes — services like home repair or modifications and tax relief — along with contacts to help.

“It is about relationships, Paganelli said. “The hope that as relationships form and trust builds, recipients will agree to quick meetings, or health checks, to help them identify the people or organizations that can help meet their needs, including home safety and internet access.”

“We want to be able to help inform medical and other resource providers about what infrastructure or digital equity barriers need to be addressed to fully go in the right direction,” said Ben Paganelli, co-director of the Partnership. “We see this as being something that will inform rural healthcare for years to come.”

For information or to sign up for Neighbor Feeding Neighbor contact Community Services at info@yourkpcs.org; by calling 253-884-4440; or in person.

To get on the interest list for Mustard Seed Meals, email information@themustardseedproject.org, or call 253-884- 9814.