Bob smiles broadly while talking about how the nutritious meals delivered by Project Angel Heart volunteers have helped him keep his weight up. “I’ve gained 18 pounds in the last year and a half!” he said. Looking at his thin frame, you know that each one of those 18 pounds is critical in helping support his weakened immune system.
Bob, who was diagnosed in 1984, isn’t home-bound like many Project Angel Heart clients. He works part-time at a hardware store, a job he got after losing his job as a network engineer for the state. But the work is exhausting, leaving him with little energy to cook at the end of the day. “The meals have allowed me to actually eat when I otherwise wouldn’t be able to,” said Bob. “I’d probably just throw a $1 Banquet meal in the microwave.”
People living with HIV require additional calories and nutrients to support their immune systems. And getting that extra nutrition can be difficult when medications cause a loss of appetite or nausea, lack of energy makes food preparation difficult, or money is tight due to the cost of medical treatments.
“The meals are phenomenal,” said Bob. “I love the variety. I like the fact that they’re creative, the spices and flavors, the cultural aspects.” While his favorite meal is Cincinnati Chili, a comfort food classic, he also loves the Ethiopian Beef, a dish cooked with carrots and onions and flavored with berbere, a distinctive Ethiopian spice mix (which is not nearly as spicy at Project Angel Heart as it is in many Ethiopian kitchens).
Bob needs all the energy he can get. These days, in addition to maintaining his own health, he’s also caring for his 84-year-old mother, who still lives on the farm where Bob grew up, and helping her with chores and projects. With these added responsibilities, he’s glad the meals help him “stay sharp.”
“Nutrition is important for mental function,” said Bob. “I’ve had to learn a lot of new skills, like plumbing, to help my mom. I think the nutrition is critical.”