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Partnering to Feed Older Adults Across the Western Slope

a food bank volunteer handing a person a meal inside of their car
Every weekday, Meals on Wheels Mesa County prepares and delivers hundreds of meals to older adults, providing a much-needed service to the region. / Photo by Caitlyn Barnett

Meals on Wheels Mesa County has been delivering hot meals to older adults from its downtown Grand Junction location for nearly 40 years. Its mission is to promote the independence and health of the people they serve through nutritious meals.

Right now, Meals on Wheels Mesa County, which is sponsored by SCL Health St. Mary’s, is able to cook and deliver upwards of 600 meals every weekday thanks to hundreds of volunteers. While this is a not-insignificant amount, especially considering the kitchen was originally built to produce just 400 meals a day, their current space is limited – so much so that they have to rent additional freezer space. That will all change soon.

Later this year, Meals on Wheels Mesa County will join Food Bank of the Rockies in our brand new 50,400-square-foot Western Slope Etkin Family Distribution Center, currently under construction in Grand Junction. The building will be 84% larger than our current Palisade facility, including 400% more refrigeration space, 39% more dry storage, and 59% more freezer space, allowing for new opportunities to provide more food to more people across the Western Slope. One such opportunity: partnering with Meals on Wheels Mesa County.

“We’re definitely pushing it to the max [right now],” said Amanda DeBock, manager of Meals on Wheels Mesa County. “With so much more room it will change how we do things.”

Amanda Debock
Meals on Wheels Mesa County manager Amanda DeBock hopes to be able to increase daily meal distribution from 600 to 1,000 once the organization moves into the new Western Slope Etkin Family Distribution Center later in 2022. / Photo by Caitlyn Barnett

Examples of these changes include being able to order in bulk once a month rather than twice a week and supplementing some food orders through Food Bank of the Rockies, though the majority of Meals on Wheels Mesa County’s food will still come through their regular suppliers. DeBock also anticipates being able to eventually increase the number of meals distributed each weekday to 1,000.

Meals on Wheels Mesa County and Food Bank of the Rockies have long been working toward the same mission of ending hunger across the Western Slope as two of 20-plus organizations that make up the Mesa County Hunger Alliance. But it wasn’t until they realized the mutual benefit of including a state-of-the-art kitchen in the new distribution center that they quickly agreed to partner. Under the agreement, Meals on Wheels Mesa County will lease the space from Food Bank of the Rockies.

In addition to being able to order select food items via Food Bank of the Rockies, Meals on Wheels Mesa County will also be able to offer any uneaten, prepared food to the Food Bank to distribute, something they currently are unable to do due to food-safety regulations. Given the Food Bank’s direct access to clients and robust distribution network, however, that food which would otherwise become waste will now be used to feed additional neighbors in need.

fresh meals as part of the Meals On Wheels program
“Food is a basic human right. When we can align with strong partnerships like Meals on Wheels Mesa County, it just means more nourishing meals will get to people’s tables faster,” said Gabriela Garayar, development manager for Food Bank of the Rockies Western Slope. / Photo by Caitlyn Barnett

“Food waste has always been a big issue for me, especially when we know the need is there but don’t have a safe way to get it to the people who need it,” said DeBock. “But now we will.”

Gabriela Garayar, development manager for Food Bank of the Rockies Western Slope, also looks forward to the expanded opportunities made possible through this new partnership. “Food Bank of the Rockies is thrilled to embark on this next chapter of our history on the Western Slope in partnership with Mesa County Meals on Wheels,” said Garayar. “Together, we will be providing more than just a meal. We get to provide memories around the table. We are grateful to continue serving our community together.”

Over the past several years, Food Bank of the Rockies’ food distribution across the Western Slope has increased from 7.1 million pounds in 2017 to more than 11.8 million pounds in 2021, made possible through our more than 145 dedicated Hunger Relief Partners and thousands of generous donors. Our goal is to annually distribute upwards of 17 million pounds of food across the Western Slope by 2027.

“Food is a basic human right,” said Garayar. “When we can align with strong partnerships like Meals on Wheels Mesa County, it just means more nourishing meals will get to people’s tables faster.”

“Absolutely no one should go to bed hungry,” agreed DeBock. “Mesa County is forging the way to end hunger. We’re all passionate about it.”

 

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