In photo:(L) Project Angel Food Chefs, Project Ange Food clients, Jesse Tyler Ferguson & Justin Mikita, (R) Project Angel Food client, LIssa Rinna & Harry Hamlin

When history books are written, 2020 will forever be remembered as the year that tens of millions of people became infected with the COVID-19 virus, and that 1.7 million people globally and 350 thousand in the U.S. perished from the disease. The devastation has been felt by us all and most severely by the people we, at Project Angel Food, serve – people already immune-compromised, dealing with life-threatening illness, most at risk of dying if they were to catch the virus.

In the history books of Project Angel Food, this year will be remembered as the moment we all rose to meet the challenge. Project Angel Food was born for this moment and we met it head-on leading with love.

It was March as volunteer groups were canceling among growing concerns and stay-at-home orders, and our clients were calling for fear that COVID might interrupt their life-saving meals; we recognized we had to take decisive action. Our founder Marianne Williamson said at the time that the moment reminded her of our early days at the height of the AIDS Crisis when there was so much uncertainty and fear. Coming together we vowed we would never close our doors and L.A.’s most vulnerable would never miss a medically tailored meal, and they have not.

Deemed an essential service by Mayor Eric Garcetti, Project Angel Food has enrolled and served more clients in a shorter time span than ever before:

  • Since the pandemic began, our client base has increased from 1,500 to 2,300 people fed per day, a 54% increase throughout 4,700+ square miles of Los Angeles County. As I write this, these numbers are increasing every day.
  • Our delivery routes increased from 37 to 47.
  • New client enrollment went from 75 people a month to 200. Project Angel Food is judgment-free. If a client is referred and qualifies, he or she is enrolled in the program without question.
  • Our kitchen has increased production, from 60,000 meals a month to 90,000.
  • We have become the agency other food agencies turn to when traditional settings for aiding food-insecure clients (congregate meals, food pantries) are no longer safe.
  • We are one of the few agencies delivering meals to Angelenos who test positive for COVID-19. These individuals must remain homebound and self-quarantined but have no other resource for home food delivery. We are currently preparing to deliver two weeks of daily meals to those with COVID-19 (and their family members) through a pilot program in Boyle Heights and Leimert Park.
  • We provide all clients with three weeks’ worth of shelf-stable meals, and hygiene kits consisting of hand sanitizer, masks, and toilet paper.
  • To replace volunteers we hired 18 formerly furloughed chefs and gig economy workers to aid in our kitchen/dispatch, at an unbudgeted cost of over $60,000 a month, increasing kitchen productivity.
  • To aid clients who are feeling socially isolated, we piloted a phone contact program, Telephone Angels, pairing volunteers with homebound clients for weekly calls. This enables clients to feel less lonely – especially during the pandemic, while volunteers can still exercise their philanthropic purpose.

One of the highlights of the year for me was delivering meals with Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, during Easter week. Their Project Angel Food volunteerism made international headlines but truth be told, it was their down-to-earth generosity our clients will remember about the couple on the multiple days they delivered meals.

Our The Lead with Love Telethon in June on KTLA 5 hosted by Eric McCormack, Jessica Holmes, and Sheryl Lee Ralph raised more than $700,000 to allow us to continue our mission of service.

In September, we served our 13-Millionth meal with Lisa Rinna and Harry Hamlin presenting it to our client, Patricia Q.  On Indigenous People’s Day, Project Angel Food also announced a groundbreaking research study on Native Americans with Diabetes in conjunction with the USC Keck School of Medicine, funded by Runningbear Ramirez.  In November Paramount Studios gifted us three billboards for our Project Angel Food: Life-Saving Meals During COVID & Beyond campaign, Adam Lambert shot a P.S.A., we hosted Project Angel Food’s Night of Gratitude and Song livestream event, and on Thanksgiving Wednesday and Thursday, with the help of Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Megan Hilty, Loni Love, and others, we delivered over 3,000 turkey dinners.

As we look to the new year, where new strains of COVID-19 continuing to put our vulnerable and growing client base at risk, we need to position ourselves for our long-term new normal. It’s like we scaled the mountain only to find when we reached the top, there was another equally daunting climb ahead.  Our Project Angel Food motto is For Life, For Love For as long as it takes…  And, as we look back at 2020 recognizing the miraculous ways we were able to not only make sure our clients never missed a meal but expand to care for even more men, women, and children who were suffering; we also look forward to the realization that we get to work miracles all over again. And, to do this we need your support.

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