Garfield County ponies up for $40,000 to help keep Valley Meals program rolling |

Garfield County ponies up for $40,000 to help keep Valley Meals program rolling

Mary Kenyon delivers meals to residents of Crystal Meadows senior housing in Carbondale in this March 19, 2020, photo, taken shortly after the Valley Meals and More program was started.
Kelsy Brunner/Aspen Times archive

A local organization that provides home-delivered meals for Carbondale-area seniors will get a funding boost to maintain its efforts into the new year.

In addition, Valley View Hospital, which operates a doctor-referred Meals On Wheels program for a handful of people in Glenwood Springs, isn’t getting out of the business just yet, a hospital representative said Monday.

Garfield County commissioners, at their regular Monday meeting, agreed to provide $40,000 in one-time funding to keep the Valley Meals and More program in Carbondale afloat.

“This program is needed,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said. “But the program also needs to get to a point where it is sustainable, and you can’t keep coming back to us for funding.”

Jankovsky’s comments were directed at Valley Meals and More founder Mary Kenyon, who had requested $85,000 from the county to help maintain her efforts to deliver meals five days a week to about 120 older adults in the Carbondale area.

Kenyon said Monday that her oversight board will convene Tuesday to decide how to proceed.

Ultimately, the program will need additional financial support to continue, possibly including a state grant that Kenyon is applying for, plus any other local support she can round up.

Kenyon said her program, which grew out of a need to provide meals to senior shut-ins during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, shouldn’t be compared to the established Meals on Wheels program on the west end of Garfield County run by Grand River Health.

“We’re a one-person operation,” Kenyon said of herself as the lone, unpaid administrator and a dedicated group of volunteers who help gather up and deliver the meals.

Garfield County Human Services, through its senior programs, has run a congregate meal program one or two days a week at various sites in the county’s six municipalities. The Glenwood Springs and Carbondale sites have been suspended in recent months, in part due to pandemic restrictions and more recently due to struggles finding a consistent service to prepare the meals.

The county is not interested in funding or operating a meal delivery service, Jankovsky and county DHS Director Sharon Longhurst-Pritt said.

However, the county has already begun to do a broader senior needs assessment to help determine where the gaps are in the various services from one end of the county to the other, Longhurst-Pritt said.

A key to keeping home deliveries happening in Carbondale and Glenwood Springs could be Valley View Hospital, though it would prefer not to do that directly, said Katie Ledall, volunteer and Meals on Wheels coordinator for the Glenwood-based hospital.

Valley View had planned to end its meal-delivery program at the end of this year, but has decided to keep the program running on a temporary basis, Ledall said.

“We do not believe in letting people go hungry, and we want to serve people in the best way possible,” she said.

Ultimately, though, the hospital would prefer to hand the program off to another nonprofit organization to operate but to continue providing financial support, Ledall said.

Currently, the doctor-referred meals program operated by the hospital serves 17 people within Glenwood city limits, she said.

“Valley View has been providing its Meals on Wheels program for 30 years, and needs to be applauded for that,” Ledall said.

Jankovsky said one concern with the Valley Meals program, which he said was reiterated by some Carbondale trustees he spoke with, is that some recipients aren’t necessarily that needy.

He made a distinction between a want and a need when it comes to home-delivered meals.

“There is a concern that there should be more interviewing (of recipients)” to make sure they are truly shut-in and in need, and not just wanting a restaurant-prepared meal delivered to their doorstep.

Valley Meals does use a rotation of local restaurants to prepare the meals — originally intended to help support them through the pandemic restrictions. But the program’s long-term goal is to build a commercial kitchen in Carbondale where meals could be prepared instead, Kenyon said.

Jankovsky said the benefits of supporting senior meals programs, whether delivered or at a congregate site, are many.

“It is to the benefit of Garfield County and the medical community to have people stay in their homes and not go to the hospital (due to malnutrition issues), or have to go into assisted living,” he said.

That need is only going to increase as more baby boomers move into the senior citizen age group, he said.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or

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