The first thing you notice when entering Project Angel Heart’s North Denver facility is the delicious scent of a home-cooked meal wafting from an industrial-sized kitchen.
Despite Project Angel Heart’s impressive output — the nonprofit delivers over 560,000 meals to 1,700 community members in Colorado every year — each meal is cooked with love, care, and chef-inspired flavors.
Project Angel Heart was founded in 1991. What started as delivering lasagna to 12 people living with HIV/AIDS is now a massive operation that enables people living with a life-threatening illness to receive medically tailored meals for free.
The majority of community members, or “clients” as the nonprofit refers to meal recipients, have multiple, co-occurring illnesses that require complex nutritional requirements.
By collaborating with each client’s medical care team, Project Angel Heart’s on-site registered dietician and chefs create meals that help mitigate symptoms and illness, and optimally nourish recipients.
For example, community members living with renal disease must restrict nutrients such as sodium, phosphate, and potassium, making typically healthy ingredients such as tomatoes, potatoes, and beans problematic. For community members undergoing cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, which can cause nausea and flavor sensitivities, unseasoned, bland-tasting foods are necessary.
At Project Angel Heart, talented chefs deftly handle diet changes, allergies, and food preferences (such as vegetarian) for each client requiring ingredient swaps. Community members may also request meals that are soft, easy to digest, and free of fish, pork, beef, or gluten.
Once dishes are cooked, they’re individually packaged in microwave-safe containers, frozen on site in a massive freezer, and bundled together into weekly meal bags by volunteers before being delivered (and sometimes even shipped) to locations across Colorado.
“Our volunteers help with chopping vegetables, dishing up, decorating bags, packing and sorting, delivering meals and more, six days a week,” says Alexandra Dougherty, Project Angel Heart’s volunteer resources coordinator.
Feeding Coloradans … and reducing medical costs
In addition to ensuring that community members are fed, Project Angel Heart is also meaningfully making an impact on their client’s health and medical costs.
According to a 2018 study commissioned by the nonprofit, receiving medically tailored meals led to a 13% reduction in hospital readmissions.
Additionally, Project Angel Heart’s meal delivery program for those with diabetes, congestive heart failure, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease resulted in an average 24% reduction of monthly medical bills.
Such savings are particularly important because the majority of community members served by the nonprofit live at or below the poverty line.
With the help of volunteers, Project Angel Heart is radically improving the lives of people in Colorado living with chronic illness. “Volunteers are the heartbeat of Project Angel Heart,” says Alexandra.
To get involved with this sterling Visit.org nonprofit partner — or to book a volunteer experience with your team — reach out to our team.