Food is medicine: Lifelong reflects on 4 decades of serving meals and community care

In 1983, the HIV/AIDS pandemic was beginning in Seattle. While elected officials and formal institutions struggled to respond, community organizations formed to care for the sick and dying. Through hospital visits, emotional support, house chores, and food, community organizations filled the gaps in care for AIDS patients.

A Lifelong employee preps zucchini.

Of these, Northwest AIDS Foundation, Chicken Soup Brigade, and Evergreen Wellness Advocates eventually became Lifelong, an organization celebrating 40 years of providing care for the most medically vulnerable people in our communities. Lifelong provides access to basic needs that are often unattainable for people who are living in poverty and facing chronic illness.

“At Lifelong, food is medicine,” says Sage Fitzpatrick, Director of Engagement at Lifelong. “For those living with an illness, having the access to nutritious food can significantly help their health outcomes. We learned during the HIV crisis that getting calories into our clients was half the battle. We have evolved our services to reflect each client’s specific dietary needs based on their diagnosis.”

Lifelong is one of the feworganizations in the Pacific Northwest providing free medically-tailored meals to people who are low income and face life challenging illnesses such as kidney disease, diabetes and HIV. In 2022, Lifelong served 427,000 medically-tailored nutritious meals as well as provided nearly 5,200 weekly grocery bags, with one out of seven bags tailored to include culturally-relevant ingredients for people from Asian Pacific Islander, East African, and Latinx communities.

A Lifelong employee distributes grocery bags.

In addition, Lifelong’s registered dietitian and nutritionists provide nutrition counseling and cooking classes with local partner organizations to reach people that are homebound.

To celebrate 40 years, Lifelong hosted a garden-party themed Summer Supper in September. Since the early 1990s Lifelong supporters have hosted dinner parties at their homes, which has become an annual community-building and fundraising tradition.

This year’s Summer Supper was attended by Lifelong supporters and employees past and present. Through ticket sales, an auction, and donations, the event raised more than $220,000 for the nonprofit.

Max Engwell at the Summer Supper.

Max Engwell has worked at Lifelong for 10 years coordinating, prepping, and packing meals and volunteered for the organization for 7 years before then. He attended the Summer Supper with his parents and an iconic garden-party hat. “I love it. I love working with people. It feels good,” Engwell says of his work.

Currently, Lifelong delivers food to 15 of Washington’s 39 counties. However, within the next year they hope to expand to serve all of Washington, and the funds raised at the Summer Supper event will be critical to making this expansion a reality.

“Everyone deserves the opportunity to thrive,” is one of the organization’s mantras woven throughout the various care and support services. By expanding medically-tailored meal and grocery deliveries throughout the state, Lifelong will continue to give thousands more people living with life challenging illnesses an opportunity to reach their best health and thrive.

Lifelong’s 40th Anniversary Summer Supper.

From cooking chicken soup for people living with HIV and AIDS, to a statewide delivery of nutrition housing and care, Lifelong has spent the past forty years providing access to health resources for the most marginalized communities. It is only fitting that they celebrated this success with a family-style Summer Supper.

When asked what the event meant to him, Walter Bowne, Lifelong donor stewardship specialist, said “It’s our fortieth year as Lifelong, we’ve come a long way since the early days of HIV/AIDS. Seeing all these people still standing, still giving, and still caring makes it all worth it.”

If you would like to learn more about Lifelong, visit

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