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Garfield County commissioners to take up Valley Meals funding Monday

Valley Meals and More volunteer Candace Goodwin loads up boxed lunches from Honey Butter to be delivered to seniors in early November 2021.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

The fate of a popular senior meals home-delivery program in the Carbondale area rests in part on a possible funding decision by the Garfield County commissioners.

But the founder of the Valley Meals and More program, Mary Kenyon, isn’t placing all the eggs in the county’s basket.

Kenyon said this week she has applied with the new Security for Colorado Seniors grant program to cover at least some of the additional $85,000 she said is needed to keep the program going in 2022.



She remains hopeful commissioners will agree to some funding support when they revisit the issue during their regular Monday meeting.

Initially, Kenyon had planned to use the state grant application to seek funding to build a commercial kitchen in Carbondale’s Third Street Center for meal preparation to support the program.



While that remains a goal to keep the program viable for the long term, Kenyon said her funding efforts are initially focused on continuing the home meal deliveries to more than 120 older adults in the Carbondale area come January.

Kenyon said Wednesday that a couple of key acknowledgments came out of a Nov. 19 “roundtable” meeting among the county’s various senior meals service providers, including Garfield County Senior Programs representatives and county Commissioner Tom Jankovsky.

“The county is recognizing that there is a need for home-delivered meals in the eastern portion of the county,” she said. “That’s a big step, and it took a lot of effort to get there.”

At the same time, she said Jankovsky was clear in reiterating that the county is not interested in running a home-delivered meal service through its own programming.

Rather, its efforts are geared toward the weekly congregate senior meal sites in each of the county’s six municipalities.

And, while it might support a meal delivery program on a case-by-case basis, county government is unlikely to come up with the full amount of the funding shortfall for Valley Meals and More, Kenyon said.

Valley Meals grew out of the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020, when many seniors were shut in during the lockdowns and hesitant to go out in public even after those restrictions were lifted.

Since then, the program has found a niche and filled a void in senior meal services for the eastern part of the county.

Financial support has come from a mix of COVID-19 emergency funds distributed through local governments, the Colorado Area Agency on Aging, the Aspen Community Foundation and numerous local business and individual donations.

Kenyon said last month in a meeting before the Board of County Commissioners that she hopes to continue to receive funding from those and other state and local entities, including the new state program and some county support.

“We’ll make a decision whether to help the program or not,” Jankovsky said, adding there’s no specific proposal on the table for consideration Monday.

He said the Nov. 19 “roundtable” was productive, but there was also a lot of discussion around what constitutes a “need” versus a “want” when it comes to senior services.

As currently configured, Valley Meals relies on a rotation of local restaurants to prepare the meals to then be delivered to the homes of area seniors who request it. A donation is suggested from the recipients, but not required.

“There’s definitely a need in eastern Garfield County for these services, no doubt,” Jankovsky said. “It’s just a question of how that’s structured.”

Ultimately, he said he would like to see Valley Meals become more sustainable, and moving away from the restaurant service to a commercial kitchen, he said.

The county supports a small home delivery meal service for a limited number of Glenwood Springs shut-ins through its Senior Programs. Those meals are now prepared at Sunlight Mountain Ski Resort and brought down to town to be delivered by Human Services staff and volunteers.

Preparation of the meals is being put out to competitive bid. The county is also planning to return to its congregate meals, which were suspended during the pandemic.

Grand River Health in Rifle operates the Meals on Wheels program for the area from New Castle to Parachute and does not rely on funding from the county government.

In addition, Valley View Hospital runs a smaller Meals on Wheels program on a referral basis in Glenwood Springs. But the hospital has indicated it wants to hand that program to another entity to operate after this year.

Kenyon added that she also will look to apply for a Garfield County Human Services grant next year in an effort to bolster funding for Valley Meals and More.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.


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