By Conor McCue

DENVER (CBS4) – As if a pandemic wasn’t enough, rising grocery prices have some local food-based nonprofits hurting even more than before. The head of Denver-based Project Angel Heart says they’re now discussing changes in how they operate because of those inflation-related challenges.

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“It’s really becoming an issue,” said Owen Ryan, president and CEO of the nonprofit.

Project Angel Heart delivers medically tailored meals to the families of about 4,000 Coloradans with severe illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, and more. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the organization has seen demand skyrocket, Ryan said.

“Many of our folks are extremely ill, they can’t go to the grocery store, they can’t access food the way a lot of us do, so they needed us to bring them meals,” Ryan said.

Lately, Ryan and his kitchen staff have been facing an even more daunting challenge.

“[In] one month we saw our costs increase $22,000,” he said.

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, grocery prices nationwide have gone up by more than 6% from November 2020 to last month. Ryan said the biggest increases have been for proteins such as chicken.

“We’ve seen costs go up 27% just over the last three months,” he said. “If these costs continue throughout the year, we’ll spend more than $260,000 more than what’s in our budget.”

That means cuts or changes are on the table, including limiting the number of people in the program.

Executive chef Brett Newman has already started making his own adjustments to save money, including making broth from scratch instead of buying it, and serving smaller portions of meat.

“We’re still going to make it nutritious; we’re still going to have the vegetables that we need in there, and if cutting a little bit of protein is the way, then that’s what we’ve got to do,” Newman said.

Ryan says the goal is to make cuts without hurting quality, because so many Coloradans count on their help every day.

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“This isn’t a maybe, this isn’t an if, we have to figure out how to address these cost increases because there are people waiting on the other end,” Ryan said.  

Ryan believes the organization can weather the storm until January, but after that they’ll need to make more dramatic cuts and changes.

The non-profit is not asking for help at this time, but anyone interested in donating or volunteering can learn more on the Project Angel Heart Website.

Conor McCue