Project Angel Heart improves health and well-being for people with life-threatening illnesses by preparing and delivering medically tailored meals and promoting the power of food as medicine.
One Saturday in 1991, a group of friends delivered a donated lasagna to 12 neighbors living with HIV/AIDS in Denver, Colorado. Inspired by the difference a compassionate visit and a hot meal made, they continued delivering meals each week- and Project Angel Heart was born. What started as an effort to bring comfort and love to those dying during the HIV/AIDS epidemic grew into a social safety net for Coloradans living with all life-threatening illnesses. Donated lasagna evolved into nutritious, freshly prepared meals, made by professional chefs and tailored to meet clients' medical needs. And the volunteers' neighborhood delivery area expanded to include all of metropolitan Denver and, starting in 2005, Colorado Springs. As national research-and evidence from Project Angel Heart's own program-validates the important role of nutrition in health care, the agency has honed its focus on providing food not just as a comfort during illness, but also as medicine that supports disease management and treatment. This year, Project Angel Heart's services have expanded to Boulder and Weld Counties and the organization will prepare and deliver medically tailored meals to more than 3,500 Coloradans living with cancer, kidney/heart/lung disease, HIV/AIDS, and other serious illnesses.
Misdiagnosed with cerebral palsy in her youth, Stephanie discovered at age 20 that the correct diagnosis for the leg weakness and spasticity she'd experienced her whole life was familial spastic paraplegia (FSP). FSP is a hereditary, degenerative neurological disorder that worsens over time and eventually leads to paralysis.
Now dependent on a wheelchair, divorced, and without a family support system nearby, Stephanie says, "I have to rely only on myself, which is scary." When her doctor became concerned about her elevated sodium levels, Stephanie admitted to relying on TV dinners to feed herself. "It was tough for me to cook and prepare meals," she says. "I kept dropping things and would burn or injure myself trying to use the stovetop and oven."
Stephanie receives low-sodium meals from Project Angel Heart and has already seen a positive impact on her health in five short months. "My bloodwork came back perfect last month, and my feet and ankles aren't swollen anymore," she declares. "It's really important to me to try to stay as healthy as possible so that I can continue to live independently."
"Everyone from the chefs who make the meals to the people who decorate the bags to the volunteers who deliver them has been kind and wonderful," Stephanie says. "And I just love the pictures on the bags! They're so special and cute; it feels like getting a card in the mail. I never want to throw them away, so I usually hang them up on my door for the week," she laughs. "Every Saturday when I get my Project Angel Heart delivery, it cheers me up. I just feel like somebody cares."