Our research shows that people battling life-threatening illnesses who receive MANNA services save healthcare dollars and experience improved health, all while having the quality and stability of their lives enhanced. Our staff, volunteers, donors and clients know that the mission is important and impactful, but it is important that our elected officials understand MANNA’s critical role as well. MANNA’s advocacy committee develops and implements strategies to advocate the “food is medicine” concept and continually works to advance MANNA’s mission.
With crucial support and training from the M·A·C AIDS Fund, our Executive Director, Sue Daugherty, Director of Policy and Institutional Affairs, Ann Hoskins-Brown and Community Outreach and Advocacy Specialist, Katelyn Baron will be attending the annual Food & Nutrition Services Symposium in Washington DC from September 29th to October 1st. This symposium encourages collaboration between peer organizations and offers training on interacting with elected official and academic institutions. The MANNA team will meet with staff from the offices of Representative Chaka Fattah, Representative Bob Brady and Senator Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania along with several of their New Jersey counterparts. MANNA’s goal is to help these officials understand that food truly is medicine and nutritional support should ultimately be a reimbursable standard of care that is a right to everyone facing a life threatening illness.
Continue to check our blog for more updates on MANNA’s “food is medicine” advocacy work.
Even for non-vegetarians, October is a great time to take an extra moment or two to reflect on personal food choices. What we eat affects our health as well as the planet in significant ways. Every meal matters when it comes to making a difference. One way to start small with your veg journey is to start with one vegetarian night a week, “Meatless Mondays.” Try to challenge yourself, friends and family to eliminate meat from your Monday meals by creating an entirely vegetarian breakfast, lunch and dinner. Even MANNA clients can participate in this vegetarian endeavor, we offer one vegetarian dinner entrée per week in addition to a large variety of fruit and vegetables with their meals.
There are several reasons to think about vegetarianism. For starters, it is a great way to focus on eating veggies. Five a day is the goal, and more is even better! All MANNA meals strive to emphasize fresh fruits and vegetables. Combined with exercise and other healthy habits, plant-based diets can reduce the risk of hypertension, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Also, vegetables, fruits and legumes tend to be very nutrient dense and are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals. A vegetarian diet can also help double down on fiber and then some, the average American gets only about 12g of the 35 g. of fiber per day that is recommended.
Curious to learn more about the health benefits of a vegetarian diet? Or just looking for some ideas? Try these resources:
www.vrg.org/nutrition or www.vegetariantimes.com
Need another reason to picks beans instead of burgers in October? Do it for the planet! Vegetarian diets require less water for production and produce less CO2 as a byproduct. On a nationwide scale, this really adds up. For more information on the environmental effects of meat production, check out the article below.
Despite its humble beginnings, the “food as medicine” principle that MANNA’s system is based on is finally beginning to be recognized and acted on by our policymakers. A fact sheet published in July by the Union of Concerned Scientists reports that the new Farm Bill includes a program that will use healthy food access to help prevent chronic illnesses and reduce medical costs.
The report comments that the American diet, typically high in meats, sugars, and processed foods and low in fresh fruits and vegetables, has led to the highest spending in health care of any country in the world. Most of our medical spending is on chronic illnesses, many of which could be prevented by improved diets. However, prevention and treatment is not as simple as just telling people to change their diets. The U.S. food system makes it very difficult for many people to access healthy foods, given that most low-income communities lack stores that sell fresh fruits and vegetables, and those that do often sell them at unaffordable prices.
The 2014 Farm Bill begins to address this problem with a program called the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI), which offers grant funding to community organizations working to secure affordable access to healthy foods. FINI requires that organizations match these federal funds with contributions from other sources. The report by the Union of Concerned Scientists suggests hospitals supply the match, using The Affordable Care Act requirement for community benefit initiatives. FINI provides the opportunity for health care facilities and healthy food initiatives to collaborate, all in the name of improving health and reducing health care costs.
At MANNA, we support initiatives like this that break down the perceived barrier between health care and food. While MANNA is not a preventative service that would fit under FINI, we do work in the same realm, using food as an integral part of a treatment plan. Healthy food is critical to a healthy life and we hope to see more progressive legislation in the future that builds on the understanding that food is medicine.
This post is by Kelly McGlynn, rising senior at Brown University and former Advocacy & Health Policy Intern at MANNA.
MANNA recently partnered with Camp Dreamcatcher for an education event. The event took place on August 19, 2014 at Camp Saginaw in Oxford, PA. The week-long summer camp was created for youth infected/affected by HIV/AIDS. This year, Camp Dreamcatcher invited MANNA’s Registered Dietitian, Alura Costa, to teach an interactive nutrition workshop. Alura partnered with Carly Roop, a Registered Dietitian from Joan Karnell Cancer Center, to develop a class to educate the campers on healthy eating specifically focusing on diabetes and heart disease, two chronic illnesses that can be prevented and controlled through healthy eating and exercise.
Alura and Carly showed the campers how to read and understand important nutrition information on nutrition labels so that they can make healthy food choices for themselves. They focused on healthy serving sizes, calories and sugars of foods that are commonly found in corner stores and how to find healthy options. The campers then participated in making delicious, homemade yogurt popsicles using ingredients that you can easily find already in the home including greek yogurt and fruit. At the end of the session, the campers were able to identify healthy food options and enjoy their delicious popsicles!
Supporting Camp Dreamcatcher is important to MANNA since we started out as an HIV/AIDS organization and continue to serve and support that population. As nutrition educators, we must take advantage of any opportunity to reach out to the youth in our community to provide them with the education and skills that they need so that they can lead a long and healthy life. This year’s Camp Dreamcatcher event was a huge success! To learn more about Camp Dreamcatcher and the children whose lives have been touched by HIV/AIDS please visit www.campdreamcatcher.org.