The Friese Foundation is committed to causes that support low-income families and people with serious health issues, such as Project Angel Food, which delivers free medically tailored meals to people affected by life-threatening illnesses.
When someone has a serious or chronic health condition, a healthy, nutritious diet can go a long way toward helping them heal. However, planning healthy meals, shopping, cooking, and cleaning up can be expensive, time-consuming, and exhausting—or even downright impossible for those with debilitating illnesses. This is where Project Angel Food steps in.
Research shows that food insecurity, illness, and financial hardship are interlinked: 23% of seriously ill people are unable to pay for basic necessities, including food; and malnourishment is a factor in two million hospital stays annually with malnourished adults 50% more likely to be readmitted.
Since 1989, Project Angel Food has delivered over 13 million free medically-tailored meals to more than 24,000 Angelenos struggling with life-threatening illnesses. 97% of their clients are below the federal poverty line, surviving solely on social security. Their need is dire—currently, more than three-fourths (77%) of Project Angel Food’s clients rely on the service as their only food source. Registered dieticians consult with clients and their healthcare case managers to tailor a menu to their health conditions and dietary preferences. The organization partners with credentialed chefs who prepare each meal from scratch. Meals vary day-to-day and are delivered along with a bag of fresh produce. Project Angel Food is also able to offer personal aspects of service, including a reliable warm weekly visitor, a visual wellness check, birthday girls and holiday toys for children.
In 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic, the demand for medically tailored meals skyrocketed in LA County and nationwide. Project Angel Food expanded their meal program from 1,500 to 2,300 critically ill, vulnerable Los Angeles residents. Monthly enrollment in the program more than doubled from 75 pre-pandemic to about 200 enrollments a month, and meals served increased from 600,000 to well over 1 million.
Meeting this increased demand was not always easy, as the pandemic caused some operational setbacks. The volunteer program was paused for safety reasons, but the organization hired 18 out-of-work chefs and gig economy workers to keep the program going. This led to increased productivity, but also increased costs by a significant amount. Other COVID-related additional costs included weekly testing, deep cleaning, personal protective equipment for staff, and air purification modifications to the organization’s facilities.
Due to the incredible efforts of Project Angel Food to meet this challenge, 93% of their clients reported being able to keep taking their medication and 98% felt their health had improved. Additionally, 97% of clients reported reduced stress from food insecurity, and an ability to maintain a healthy weight. The Friese Foundation is proud of these outcomes and are honored to have been able to play a role in supporting this invaluable work, done while operating as safely as possible during the pandemic when the need for distance exacerbated the ability of many to stay well fed and looked out for.
History of Project Angel Food
Project Angel Food was founded in 1989 by Marianne Williamson, David Kessler, Ed Rada, Howard Rosenman, and Freddie Weber as an outreach program of the Los Angeles Center for Living.
In the early 1990s, the organization focused its efforts on assisting people affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In 2004, the organization expanded its reach to serve clients affected by illnesses like cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, and renal failure.
The organization launched its Project Angel Food Garden a decade ago, which allowed volunteers and staff members to plant and harvest organic vegetables and fruits for use in meals.