With the outbreak of COVID-19 and suspension of programs and community meals Garfield County officials have been scrambling to help seniors and low-income get access to food.
The county is currently working closely with LIFT-UP to help get its Rifle food bank moved to the fairgrounds to expand the workspace and capacity to build bags to distribute to people across the county.
“We will be doing each community two days a week, Parachute for now is just once a week since they have some other services in place,” said Christine Dolan, nutritional program manager for Garfield County Public Health. “They got their first food shipment to the fairgrounds yesterday. They were up and running as of Tuesday.”
The county is still seeing and taking new clients, mostly through online services.
New clients can go to coloradowiksignup.org or call 970-945-1377, ext. 2020.
“As all of our programs move forward, if there are greater needs we will adapt to that,” Dolan said.
The county is also working with the Rifle Senior Center on expanding the congregate meal to the rest of the county.
“I’ve been working with Judy Martin, the contact for the senior congregate meal sites. They are now doing drive-up lunch sites,” Dolan said.
With reservations seniors can pick up a meal Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at the Rifle Senior Center. Meals will also be available Wednesday at both Valley Senior Center in Parachute and Silt Town Center with reservations.
Martin, who is the director of Senior Programs, said they are currently serving from parking lots due to the outbreak and implementation of social distancing.
“We started doing our congregative take-out in the Rifle area because the kitchen out of the Rifle Senior Center was willing to hop on and do it,” Martin said.
“As of March 30 we will be covering the entire county, and will start doing meals in Glenwood Monday and Friday, and on Wednesday in Carbondale.”
Dolan said seniors need to make reservations ahead of time, and if they are unable to get to the drive-up sites they are making some provision for delivering to people that have previously been part of the meal program.
“If they indicate that they need food, Judy will make sure that happens when they come to the center,” Dolan said.
The program is not intended to be a substitute for Grand River Health’s Meals-on-Wheels program. It is to help people who are normally part of the program, making sure they get their lunch since they can’t gather anymore.
“We were averaging 40-50 out of Rifle three days a week, 50 out of Silt, and 65 out of Parachute, and 17 out of New Castle Monday,” Martin said
“I’m expecting an increase as the length of time goes on, and folks are really staying isolated.”
The center announced it will change from hot meals to cold at the end of March, so it can maintain the correct temperature and serve healthy meals to residents.
“Every day when we serve lunch we have had seniors thank us for doing it, because they didn’t know what they were going to be able to do,” Martin said.
MEALS ON WHEELS UP 20 PERCENT
Kaaren Peck, director of volunteer services at Grand River Health in Rifle, has picked up the last two weeks for the Meals on Wheels program with a 20 percent increase in clients.
“Right now we are up to 90 clients from New Castle to Parachute, and our routes are pretty much maxed out,” Peck said.
With the new clients they have started to take names for a waiting list.
The program helps homebound seniors, disabled and residents recovering from surgeries.
In order to accommodate the new guidelines with the COVID-19 outbreak, Peck said they have changed how drivers pick up and deliver meals.
“Our drivers wait in their car in a loading zone, and we bring the cooler out to them. Normally they would wait in the café, but we don’t want them to set foot in the hospital just on the chance they could pick COVID(-19) up,” Peck said.
Drivers are wearing medical masks now and taking extra precautions to keep them and their clients safe.
Clients are now called when the drivers are close, meals are dropped off at the door with a knock, and the drivers head back to the car before the client comes out to get the meal.
“It changes things up. Part of why we do Meals-on-Wheels is to break the isolation, and they are not getting a good dose of that right now,” Peck said.
“All they are getting is a wave from a car, but at least they know someone is out there caring for them.”
The program had a record year in 2019 with 20,000 meals delivered, and Peck said with this 20 percent increase just in the past two weeks they may have to change things up and add routes if it increases.