COLORADO SPRINGS — Project Angel Heart is expanding services to Pueblo, Weld, Boulder, and Douglas counties.
The Denver-based organization improves the health and well-being of people with severe illness by preparing and delivering medically tailored meals. The meals are created by professional chefs and a registered dietitian and are tailored to meet clients’ individual and medical dietary needs in an effort to alleviate hunger and complement their disease management and treatments.
"We know that some people can't have anything inflammatory that can make their disease much worse. They do a lot of work with the macro-nutrients to make sure this is exactly the meal that they need. If it's heart-healthy, you're getting reduced sodium and reduced red meat. If you're on cancer treatment, we're going to make sure everything in there isn't going to make your taste buds overly sensitive because Chemotherapy treatment can be rough on people," said Owen Ryan, CEO, and President of Project Angel Heart.
Roughly 12,000 meals are prepared weekly at the Denver facility then delivered by volunteers.
"These are volunteers that meet us at our office here, church parking lots, or Kaiser Permanente locations. They pick up the bags from there, and then take them directly to client's homes across the state," said Ryan.
Kaiser Permanente awarded Project Angel Heart with a one-year $580,000 grant which will increase the service area to a total of 1,350-square miles and makes home-delivered meals and nutrition services available at no cost to people living with illnesses such as cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, HIV/AIDS, and more.
"We've had a long-standing relationship with Project Angel Heart. This was born out of a study that we conducted in 2020 called "Meals Matter" and we had great results from that study. We were able to work with two hospitals, 652 participants of that study, and more than 20,000 meals were delivered to recently discharged patients suffering from heart failure, cancer, and liver disease. We know with proper nutrition that we're able to keep patients out of the hospital, reduce out-of-pocket medical expenses, and promote overall well-being," said Carmen Martin, Senior Community Health Specialist at the Community Health and Engagement Department, Kaiser Permanente.
At the start of the Meals Matters study, Martin says the pandemic hadn't shown the impact of food insecurity, but with time it kept increasing.
"We had to keep giving donations because the households for the Meals Matter participants were needing nutrition. They were food insecure, and now 1 in 3 Coloradans are food insecure, based on the most recent study by Hunger Free Colorado. We know that the food insecurity rate is unacceptable, we need to do more, we need to partner with community-based organizations," said Martin.
Martin says another part of the grant is partnering with the Care and Share Food Bank and Kaiser Permanente clinics to serve as distribution sites.
"We're looking to contract with hospitals if they have cold food storage. Project Angel Heart will be providing meals for those patients," said Martin.
"There are three key parts to the support from Kaiser Permanente. The first is getting meals to people in need, people at home living with severe illness, particularly n Pueblo. The second is supporting people with nutrition, counseling, and education programs. Doing peer support groups so people don't feel isolated with the disease they're struggling with. The third is all about wellness visits so we're looking forward to post-pandemic life where we can visit people in their homes and get them the education they want, counseling they need to feel better," said Ryan.
The expansion rolls out to the new counties in February. Anyone interested in signing up for services can visit this website.