KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Kansas City, Missouri, senior centers started to close and seniors themselves decided to self-isolate because the disease proved more harmful to people over 65 years old.
Those changes meant seniors were not getting the meals they’d normally receive at senior centers.
The Mid-America Regional Council [MARC] already had a program in place which delivered frozen meals to seniors, but has seen demand increase by 85 percent during the pandemic, according to James Stowe, the agency’s director of aging and adult services.
So MARC had to change its food delivery model.
Stowe said the agency was already discussing ways to improve the system when the federal government injected emergency funds to agencies like his all over the country.
“When the crisis hit, we simply accelerated that change, put everything into place,” Stowe explained.
The changes include using frozen meals from a company in Springfield, Missouri, which grows the produce in the region. Seniors can pick which frozen meals they receive based on preference or dietary restrictions.
Seniors now receive fresh produce from Kanbe’s Markets and a loaf of bread from Farm to Market, both based in Kansas City. Plus, MARC now basically contracts 13 nonprofits across Ray, Clay, Platte, Jackson and Cass counties in Missouri to deliver the meals to the doorsteps of seniors. Those nonprofits earn money for the deliveries and are able to offer other services to seniors who may otherwise not have access to them.
“Our clients are like any other consumer in the KC region,” Stowe explained. “People want to know where their food comes from, people want the freshest, least processed food possible. And they want really high quality, nutritious food and that’s what we’re able to deliver under the new model.”
Even once the emergency funds run out, Stowe says the new model will remain in effect, which is good news for Ralph and Martha Kean.
One of the couple’s daughters signed the 92 and 86-year-old up for meal deliveries in March.
Martha said the food is delicious and saves her from having to stand for hours preparing a meal.
“It’s just so great for us. You wouldn’t believe what it does for us,” she said.
Stowe said next month, Kanbe’s will take over the packaging and distribution of the meals and side items, another example of how the new model is benefitting local businesses and people.