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The valley's Meals on Wheels program which has faced previous cutbacks in services to area senior citizens this year - received a needed boost this week with a $12,000 contribution.

The contribution from Utah Valley Regional Medical Center to the Mountainland Association of Governments will allow the county program to continue through the end of this fiscal year.Program officials had feared that the meals service would have to be cut completely for the month of June and leave a number of area senior citizens without meals because of lack of funding.

"It was apparent back in January that we were going to have a shortage of funds," Utah County Commissioner Malcolm Beck said. "Then after cutting back, there was an indication that without drastic changes we would probably end up with no money at all for the program."

But the donation - which results from a 12 percent discount in the price of the meals, which are prepared at the medical center - will keep the program running until the new budget year when additional federal funds will be available.

"We felt this would be a good way of cooperating with the county and being a good neighbor," said Utah Valley's chief executive officer Mark Howard.

Beck, chairman of Mountainland's Advisory Council on Aging, said they anticipate the program to be fully funded next year. This year's federal funding was $650,000 for the nutrition program.

Mountainland's executive director Homer Chandler said, "This allows us to buy time as we re-evaluate the whole aging program and look at our priorities so people are not left without meals. This gives us two or three months to do it in."

More demand from a growing senior citizen population and a reduction in federal funding have caused this year's shortage, program director Don Young said.

The program now serves 600 county residents, but many are on a waiting list. Eight hundred residents were on the program earlier this year before cutbacks.

Cutbacks included such things as limiting senior centers to four meals a week, not adding new clients to the home delivery system and releasing many existing clients. Only those in the worst condition were kept on the list or added.

All meals are prepared at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center for $1.79 per meal, but the discount cuts that cost by 21 cents per meal. The meals are delivered to various senior citizen centers and homes throughout the county.