Meet our Intake Specialists!

March is National Nutrition Month®!  It is a month-long campaign to inform the public of key nutrition topics and to acknowledge the professionals who promote these topics. While the Nutrition and Client Services team is represented by Registered Dietitians, they are also represented by Intake Specialists who are integral to the department and carrying out the MANNA Mission.

Intake Specialists are the first line of communication with potential and current MANNA clients. For potential clients, they help explain services and coordinate a referral. For current clients, they set them up with services, send corresponding materials, and remain the client’s point of contact for their duration of time on MANNA.

The Intake Specialists are also vital in communicating with Medical Care Providers from health networks and Care Coordinators from insurance companies. They are able to check and inform them of the status of a referral, answer questions about services, and obtain needed paperwork for client’s records. Within the department, Intake Specialists schedule nutrition counseling appointments with the Dietitians.

If you have ever come in our building to visit or volunteer, you can catch one of our Intake Specialists with a friendly smile in the hallway of the Nutrition and Client Services Department. There are five Intake Specialists in two offices- Alex Cuéllar, Desiree Archie, Frances Sebwe, Helen Kilmartin, and Jane Fiordeliso. Let’s take time to open those doors and get to know a little more about the names and faces of each Intake Specialist.

What do you love about working at MANNA?

Alex: I enjoy the interactions I establish on a daily basis with both my coworkers and the clients. I even had the privilege to meet with two or three clients when they came to the facility to pick up their meals.

Desiree: I love our mission. Nutrition is so vital for our optimal health yet there are so many people who are unaware about how to properly nourish themselves. I’m proud to be part of a team and organization that’s doing the work to make a difference.

Helen: One thing I especially love about working at MANNA is our community. I’ve met some amazing people while working here. Whether it’s a client, volunteer, or coworker. Everyone here is eager to help our community like jumping in the kitchen or run out to deliver meals if need be, and I love that!

What is your favorite meal to cook? What is a food that brings your comfort?

Frances: My favorite meal to cook is Jollof Rice. Liberian made rice bread brings me comfort.

Jane: I love cooking anything with pasta, which happens to be a comfort food. I also have a huge sweet tooth. 

What is something that brings you joy?

Alex: I enjoy going to the gym after work to do some weightlifting. I also enjoy some Salsa dancing as part of my exercise regimen.

Desiree: My partner, friends, family, and pup.

Frances: My children.

What is a fun fact about yourself?

Helen: I wanted to be an actress when I was growing up, and my parents fully supported that journey. I was an extra in a movie when I was 12. The film may have received a 54% on Rotten Tomatoes, but the experience I gained was 100%.

Jane: I can deadlift 2.5x my bodyweight.

What do you love most about Philadelphia?

Alex: The sights and sounds and the history like the National Constitution Center. Not to mention watching live events.

Desiree: The black artists, creatives, and wellness leaders. Both local and mainstream. The energy of the culture is pure Philly. Sidenote: go watch Abbott Elementary and Bel Air, both are by Philly-born folks and they’re incredible shows. You won’t be disappointed.

Frances: It’s a very lively city.

Helen: Philly is my home, I love the people! My neighbors and friends are my family. I find so much comfort when I’m on the bridge or highway and see the skyline, because that’s when I know I’m home.

Jane: The Sixers team and the various food and restaurant options.

One thing is clear – each Intake Specialist has a love of helping our MANNA clients and the MANNA community!

Honoring World AIDS Day

December 1, 2021

Dear Friends,

Today, on World AIDS Day, we unite around the world to support those living with HIV and honor and remember those who have lost their lives from HIV/AIDS related illnesses.

This year, the theme of World AIDS Day is “End Inequalities. End AIDS. End Pandemics.” 32 years ago next month, seven members of the First Presbyterian Church came together to support their neighbors who were dying of AIDS at home, shuttered from their communities. We have come so far since then, but still serve the HIV/AIDS community and others living with serious illness – many of whom are impacted by social, economic, and/or racial inequalities that contribute to their health status.

I joined MANNA over two decades ago as an HIV/AIDS specialty dietitian in a time where people were afraid to shake my clients’ hands. For some, this is still true. In a time now when it is more vital than ever to nourish our neighbors and protect those who are most vulnerable, we must band together to not only ensure they are cared for but also work to fight the inequalities that exist as barriers to access, treatment, and human rights as a whole.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold here in Philadelphia and around the world, the inequalities are stark. Marginalized and minority populations are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, both in prevalence and mortality. We must all commit to doing the work to end these inequalities.

Please join me in taking a moment today to honor our current clients living with HIV, and honoring those who have passed. To learn more about World AIDS Day and this year’s theme, I encourage you to visit UNAIDS’ website here.


Sue Daugherty, RDN LDN


The Role of a Registered Dietitian at MANNA

by MANNA RD Danielle Talenti

When I am asked what I do for a profession and I tell people that I am a Dietitian, I usually get the same responses. People tend to say, “Can you make me a meal plan?”, “Oh, I probably shouldn’t be eating (said food person has in hand)”, “I need to talk to you about this diet I’m on.” While the title of a Dietitian can be misleading because it has the word diet right in it, I am here to shed some light on all of the amazing things that Dietitians do, and specifically what we Dietitians do here at MANNA. 

Defining what a Dietitian does is honestly quite challenging. There are endless roles a Dietitian can play. They might work in a medical field, community setting, public health, research, and trust me, the list goes on. But if I had to nail down some of the general responsibilities of a Dietitian I would have to say the following: 

  • Provides Medical Nutrition Therapy
    • This individualized evidence based approach is used to help to clients manage chronic disease states such as diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, and many others.
  • Manages Food Service Operations 
    • Dietitians help develop menus and manage logistics of large scale kitchens such as in a hospital or school cafeteria.
  • Conducts research in the field
    • As part of an interdisciplinary team Dietitians are constantly working on advancing research in our field.
  • Advocates for Policy changes
    • In the public health sector Dietitians are working to improve nutrition care and access for all.
  •  Expands the field in non-traditional settings 
    • Dietitians can work in unique areas such as sports nutrition, private practice, or as a recipe developer for large food corporations. 

These examples are really only touching the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all of the jobs that a Dietitian can do. 

Just like there are a vast variety of areas that a Dietitian can work in, there are multiple responsibilities that our Dietitians at MANNA have. First and foremost, our Dietitians provide free one on one nutrition counseling with clients who are on or have been referred to our program. Our Dietitians work with our clients to navigate their unique individual needs. They provide counseling and nutrition education to help manage disease states such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease, heart disease, and many others. Our annual satisfaction survey results showed that 92% of clients who answered the survey and received nutrition counseling rated the quality of nutrition counseling as “excellent” or “good”. Clients have described nutrition counseling sessions as “well explained” and “easy to follow and put into practice.”

MANNA RD Emily Sadowy works with Director of Operations Eric Gantz on a Get Fresh course.

While the nutrition counseling services are rated highly, a client favorite is also our “Get Fresh” virtual cooking demos. Clients participate in a live zoom class where our Dietitians and chefs collaborate in a fun and interactive way to provide both nutrition education and basic cooking skills, while also cooking delicious meals. 

MANNA RD Katie Russell conducts a quality control check.

Speaking of delicious meals, our Dietitian’s team up with our chefs to create the medically tailored menus that clients receive while on the program. With MANNA, we offer 12 different diet modifications such as diabetic friendly, heart healthy, and kidney friendly to name a few. It is important that the meals we create meet the unique needs of our clients based on their disease state. To ensure that these needs are being met our Dietitians perform continuous quality improvement regularly in the kitchen. Registered Dietitian Katie Russel MS, RD, LDN developed a kitchen audit and explains, “This helps to ensure the safety and high quality of the meals from preparation to delivery.” 

Example of a Meal Bag tip developed by our team.

Our team of Dietitians have found it helpful to create and provide nutrition education handouts to supplement the meals. Dietitian Emily Sadowy RD, LDN states that. “I have found success creating materials based around building meals on a budget and utilizing pantry staples which have been more sustainable for clients as they transition off the program.”  Additionally, the Dietitians also work on creating educational social media posts, meal bag tips, blog posts, and nutrition education modules.

Here at MANNA the Dietitians and staff pride ourselves on always finding ways to improve. One way that we do this is through the research and evaluation that the MANNA Institute conducts. These efforts, led by Dr. Jule Anne Henstenburg PhD, MS, RDN, LDN, FAND are focused on exploring the impact of nutrition on health for people with serious illnesses. The goal of the MANNA Institute is to focus on improved service delivery and healthcare transformation. 

Some of MANNA’s Registered Dietitians on National RD Day!

As you can see, there are so many ways that our Dietitians here at MANNA are utilized. At the end of the day we are all here to provide the best possible care and support to clients coming on and off our program. For more information about the MANNA program, please visit our website at 

Seminar Series: Cancer & Malnutrition

In honor of Malnutrition Awareness Week, the MANNA Institute hosted its 3rd academic seminar titled “Cancer & Malnutrition” in partnership with Fox Chase Cancer Center. On Wednesday, October 13, we were joined by Dr. Rishi Jain, MD, MS, DABOM and Kara Stromberg, MS, RD, CDE, LDN of FCCC to discuss their current research and the latest nutritional guidelines for patients with cancer. Over 50 attendees, including registered dietitians, physicians, researchers, students, and community members, joined the discussion. A recording of the seminar can be viewed here.

Stromberg began by discussing best practices for diagnosing and treating malnutrition in clinical settings and the important role of the registered dietitian throughout the process. Dr. Jain explained research to date showing potential causal pathways for over or undernutrition to lead to various gastrointestinal cancers, as well as the adverse outcomes associated with malnutrition in oncology patients. The presenters then shared details of their upcoming study measuring outcomes of MANNA’s medically tailored meal program for patients undergoing treatment for colorectal cancer. This research project, funded by the MANNA Institute, will assess nutrition parameters and outcomes in preparation for a future clinical trial.

The Academic Seminar Series is a bi-annual presentation on topics relating to in-patient and community-based nutrition care. The discussions highlight current research initiatives as well as future needs and opportunities. The goal of the series is to bring together researchers, clinicians, and healthcare institutions to share ideas and spur future research collaborations with the MANNA Institute.

This month’s seminar also followed ASPEN’s Malnutrition Awareness Week, which was October 4-8. As an official ambassador of Malnutrition Awareness Week, the MANNA Institute was able to offer complimentary access to all MAW webinars, enabling nutrition professionals and community members to get involved in efforts to end malnutrition. We look forward to continuing the conversation during the next academic seminar – Join us in Spring 2022!

Summer Salads

This recipe comes to you from a firm believer that salads do NOT have to be boring. With so much produce in season during the summer, it’s a great chance to experiment with new flavors and textures. In season produce typically costs less and tastes better (1). Adding fruit to salads can enhance sweetness and flavor variety. Enter: Watermelon. You know it, you love it, and it’s the perfect snack to keep you cool during the summer since it’s in season from July – September (2). It’s also great when added to a salad: in this one, the sweet melon pairs well with fresh (or dried) herbs, tangy lemon, savory cucumber, and creamy feta cheese. Each ingredient adds to the dish’s nutrient profile. For starters, the watermelon and cucumber have a high water content to keep you hydrated. The herbs give a ton of flavor, so no need for additional salt. Lemon zest and juice provide vitamin C, and the feta cheese provides protein and calcium.

Whether you’re buying produce from your local grocery store or farmer’s market, you want to make sure you’re getting quality items. Some things to consider when picking a watermelon include: weight, color, and… sound?? You heard right! A ripe melon will feel heavy- this means it contains a lot of juice. It will also be dark green, with a yellow (not white!) spot underneath where it has been growing on the ground (3). If you tap the watermelon with your fingers, it should sound hollow (3). Some other general tips for buying fresh produce include looking for vibrant color without bruising or browning and ensuring the produce feels firm without any soft spots. An odd shape or bumpy texture, however, is okay. “Ugly” fruits and vegetables have the same flavor, nutrition, and sometimes even cost less (4).

We shared more recipes like this one during MANNA’s Get Fresh Summer Series where MANNA chefs and dietitians showed you how to make the most out of one ingredient, stay hydrated with meals, and grill up some summer dishes to go alongside this watermelon feta salad. Check out our Watermelon Get Fresh here:…/08/Get-Fresh-Hydration-Recipes.pdf

Link to recipe:

Looking Ahead in Nutrition & Client Services

The year 2020 challenged many of us in ways we never thought imaginable. The Nutrition & Client Services Department at MANNA had to adjust their roles to the new normal. We are hopeful and excited for what 2021 has in store. Here are some of the big picture ideas we are planning to bring to our clients:

Virtual Nutrition Classes In the fall of 2020 we rolled out our first three part virtual Get Fresh cooking class series. All classes were held over zoom and led by our Registered Dietitians and Head Chef.  The classes focused on teaching participants how to make balanced meals out of their pantry items. Participants observed a cooking demonstration followed by a brief nutrition education session in the comfort of their own home. In 2021 we plan to roll out at least three more virtual Get Fresh series as well as partner with other community organizations to deliver virtual education.

Meal Bag Tips This was a previous client favorite that we are ramping up in 2021. Meal bag tips are a way for clients who do not have access to the internet to receive weekly nutrition education inside of their meal bags.  The focus of these tips will be to provide nutrition education around managing chronic illness as well as offer snack and meal recipes for when clients cycle off the program. 

Cooking Demonstrations Be on the lookout in the coming weeks to view brief recorded cooking demonstrations from MANNA Dietitians and Chefs. These will live on our MANNA Youtube page and other social media platforms. They will feature short five-minute meals and kitchen hacks for MANNA clients and the Philadelphia community at large.

Food Labels In the coming months we are planning to roll out new food labels for our meals. This label will show grams on specific macro and micronutrients as well as ingredient information. This will help to keep clients informed about specific menu items and be a tool for our Dietitians to use during their one-on-one counseling sessions.

These are just a few of the changes on the horizon in the coming months, but the sky is the limit to the creativity and reach of the Nutrition and Client Services Department. Clients are always welcome to call for any nutrition related questions or to schedule a free nutrition counseling appointment over the phone by dialing 215-496-2662 ext 5.  Here’s to 2021!

A 30th Year to Remember

We began this year with big plans to celebrate our 30th Anniversary – full of love, memories, and gathering with our extended community.

While the year certainly played out much differently than we planned, we still found ourselves surrounded by the love and support of the community who has been with us for 30 years, as well as so many new friends, supporters, volunteers and donors.

While the pandemic shut down much of Philadelphia, MANNA continued to be recognized as an essential service. Our doors stayed open, our client census climbed to the highest numbers we have ever seen, and our community rallied behind our clients and their families – some of the area’s most vulnerable citizens.

Inside our kitchen, we made many changes for the health and safety of our volunteers, staff, and clients. We instituted masks and social distancing, reduced the number of volunteers per shift, condensed our hours, changed our delivery protocols, and added additional safety trainings and health questionnaires.

From increased expenses in our kitchen to the urgent need for PPE, we are incredibly grateful for the outpouring of support from Philadelphia’s philanthropic community – foundations, corporations, families and individuals.

That brings us to our incredible volunteers – Volunteers are Essential. Since the onset of the pandemic in early March, 2,648 unique individuals have heroically volunteered in our kitchen or on the road delivering meals – totaling over 58,000 hours.

From all of us here at MANNA – thank you for standing with us. Whether this is your first year as a member of our community or your 30th, we are grateful to you.We couldn’t do it without you.
Here’s to a safe and healthy 2021.

Volunteer Profile: Matt Savastano

Written by Kimberly Gadzepko, MANNA Intern

Matt is a chef who is originally from northeast Pennsylvania. He went to culinary school and has lived here for about 13 years. He is enjoying his life and opportunities.

Matt first heard about MANNA through a Mexican restaurant he worked at that participated in the popular guacamole event- Guac Off- hosted by MANNA. After an unfortunate job loss due to the pandemic, he started coming to MANNA four days a week. Now with his new and current job, he continues to volunteer between his work schedule.

Matt usually assists with loading trucks starting bright and early at 7 a.m. Following this he assists with labeling/stickers and around 8 am helps with food preparation.

“Usually, I help with food prep. I know that I can help in the kitchen and with the packaging it’s a good workout and I enjoy working with them. Everyone is very friendly. They are willing to help you with anything. I go in and 20 people say hi to me and know my name. It’s nice. It’s good to work with people who care about you and so clearly, they care about other people. It helps with volunteering work.”

Matt explains that the work for him at MANNA is motivating and inspiring.

“It gets me out of bed in the morning. I get there are 7 and I get up and do more in three hours than I would normally do during the day. It’s good to help your community and I truly believe in food as nutrition and food as medicine principle. Even myself, I notice that when I eat better, I feel better.”

Matt is happy to participate in helping at MANNA, a place that incorporates his own passions and ideals.

“A lot of the stuff I’ve done all my life at work I can easily apply there. Even with food safety stuff and knowing things there’s a familiarity with the lingo.

Matt truly loves the atmosphere and encourages others to get involved.

“I would tell people about what I do every day. I would let them know that there are people out there that need help and there are friendly people out there that are willing to do it with you. You can meet new people. I know it’s sometimes hard to get people to do something like three hours a week, but after volunteering at MANNA for me it’s super simple. It’s easy and fulfilling and makes a difference.”

Volunteer with us:

Volunteer Profile: Roberto Soler

Written by Kimberly Gadzekpo, MANNA Intern

Roberto Soler moved to Pennsylvania from Venezuela five years ago and works at the Attic Youth Center, a space for LGBTQ youth.  It was through his work at the center that he found out about MANNA. In the midst of COVID with a limited work schedule at the Attic, he became very involved with MANNA.

He has volunteered at MANNA for three months, coming in for every Early Bird shift Tuesday through Friday.

For Roberto, the best part about MANNA is the environment.

“There are very nice people there. It’s funny because everyone has their different behavior and background but everybody has a smile. Even with the mask you can [the smile] in their eyes.”

Roberto recalls what each day entails that makes it so special for him.

“Everybody has their own territory. During the four days there you can find a different kind of person. At MANNA everything is different [each day]. I enjoy all my days there.”

What Roberto wants to express most about MANNA is the people.

“I met these wonderful people like Micki, Kenny, Martha, Rachel, Beth, all of them are nice. I like that kind of community environment. It’s very nice. Working with Ralph, Chris, Phoebe, it’s very nice. Working with them is great. It’s my first time doing something like this and I really enjoy it! It’s not easy being in a working environment without nice people. For example, at the Attic, I feel great and now I found MANNA, [which has] a similar environment, and I’m fine! I don’t need anything else.”

The only thing Roberto would change, he jokingly explains, is the music.

 “You know something I would love to change is the music. I like pop music like Katy Perry or Rihanna, or Sia and almost every day I have to hear Elton John there… And it’s not bad but…okay!”

Roberto is a dedicated and passionate volunteer who has found his niche at MANNA. His impact and contagious energy bring so much to everyone he meets!

Volunteer with us: