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Meals on Wheels service discontinued in West River Valley

Valley Cares says kitchen is ‘plagued by staffing issues’ for meal program serving 28 people

TOWNSHEND—After what a news release describes as “thorough deliberation,” Valley Cares, Inc. has announced that it can no longer provide Meals on Wheels to approximately 28 people in the region.

“This really has been a tough decision for us,” JoAnne Blanchard, executive director of the community-based nonprofit organization, said in the release. “We decided that we just need to focus on our residents [at West River Valley Senior Housing].”

“With everything else that has happened in the past year and a half, we just feel we need to devote ourselves to making things the best they can be for our residents,” she said.

Blanchard said that the decision of Valley Cares to discontinue Meals on Wheels is in part a financial decision and in part a response to hiring challenges brought on by the pandemic — challenges that have adversely affected staffing in the kitchen.

“We are extremely lucky to have an outstanding nursing team and wonderful care staff, as well as maintenance and other management staff,’ said Blanchard. “However, our kitchen, run by Healthcare Services Group, has been plagued by staffing issues. The food service manager and other kitchen staff are burdened, working long hours, and they just cannot seem to find enough help.”

The suspension of Meals on Wheels is an effort to redirect the resources of the current kitchen staff to focus on the needs of residents, she said.

The past 18 months has been tough on Valley Cares, as it has on other senior housing and long-term care providers around Vermont and the United States.

Blanchard cited high vacancy rates due to pandemic-imposed restrictions have greatly limited Valley Cares’ income.

She admitted that Valley Cares’ management and board of directors find it extremely difficult discontinuing a service that they know serves a need in the community.

She said she is grateful for all the hours and dedication that volunteer drivers have given to delivering the meals.

Valley Cares is working with Senior Solutions, the organization that oversees Meals on Wheels in southeastern Vermont, to find another provider to serve the region and to make a smooth transition of the program.

As described in the news release, the nonprofit is “committed to providing high quality, affordable housing and compassionate care allowing seniors to age in place with respect and dignity.”

Valley Cares provides affordable senior housing at the assisted living facility and independent living apartments in Townshend, as well as services to the surrounding communities such as a SASH (Support and Services at Home) program and a medical equipment lending program.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #629 (Wednesday, September 8, 2021). This story appeared on page A3.

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