August is Family Meals Month


August is Family Meals Month, a time to take a break from busy schedules and come together as a family to share a meal.  Eating together four or more times in a week has proven benefits, including nutritional health.

Family meals are an opportunity for conversation which teaches children how to listen and provides them a chance to express their own opinions, giving them a voice in the family. Positive dinner conversations and active listening expands children’s vocabulary and reading ability and increases their sense of security. Family meals have a positive impact on children’s values, motivation and self-esteem. Eating frequent meals together also encourages positive nutritional health. Planning, preparing and cooking healthy meals together teaches children the skills they need to carry on these healthy eating habits throughout adulthood. Studies have shown that families who eat dinner together tend to eat more fruits and vegetables and healthy protein sources and fewer fried foods and soda.

August is also a very popular month for kids to go to summer camp. Campers are often exposed to new foods that are also wholesome and nourishing. This month, MANNA’s Registered Dietitian, Alura Costa, will be teaching an interactive nutrition workshop at Camp Dreamcatcher. Alura will talk with campers about healthy eating and demonstrate ways for the kids to prepare the foods at home. Look for more information and photos from this day on the MANNA blog and website.  Learn more about this camp for children whose lives have been touched by HIV/AIDS at

The Mediterranean Diet

Mediterranean Diet Salmon

Originally considered the diet of the poor man, the Mediterranean Diet is now considered among the healthiest in the world. Based on the natural diet of people living in countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea such as France, Italy, Spain, Morocco, and Greece, this diet emphasizes plant-based foods, healthier fats and proteins, plant-based seasonings, and exercise.

To try this diet yourself, add fruits and vegetables at meal time or as snacks throughout the day. They are full of disease-fighting antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, and the added fiber in whole grains has been linked to decreased levels of cholesterol while also promoting intestinal health. Switching to whole-grain bread and eating grains such as barley, quinoa, and farro is a great way to incorporate the Mediterranean diet into everyday life.

Use heart-healthy fats such as olive oil, and eat nuts and other unsaturated fat sources high in omega-3 fatty acids. Limit amounts of saturated fat such as butter. Choosing these heart-healthy options helps lower LDL (or the “bad” cholesterol) and will provide you with antioxidant benefits.

Keep consumption of red meat to a minimum—no more than just a few times a month—and eat fish and poultry multiple times a week. Substituting fish and poultry for red meat will help lower your cholesterol intake and promote heart health. Use salt minimally; use herbs and spices to flavor dishes instead.

So, what type of beverages should you consume along with all of these healthy foods? Red wine in moderation! A glass of red wine with your meal is actually allowed, but if you don’t already drink, don’t feel the need to start.

Enjoy this recipe that follows the rules of the Mediterranean diet—and check the Be Well Philly Blog for some tips on how to incorporate physical activity into your everyday life.

Mediterranean Style Grilled Salmon

• 4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
• 1 tablespoon minced garlic
• 2 tablespoons lemon juice
• 4 salmon fillets, each 5 ounces
• Cracked black pepper, to taste
• 4 green olives, chopped
• 4 thin slices lemon

Prepare a hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill or broiler. Away from the heat source, lightly coat the grill rack or broiler pan with cooking spray. Position the cooking rack 4 to 6 inches from the heat source. In a small bowl, combine the basil, parsley, minced garlic and lemon juice. Spray the fish with cooking spray. Sprinkle with black pepper. Top each fillet with equal amounts of the basil-garlic mixture. Place the fish herb-side down on the grill. Grill over high heat. When the edges turn white, after about 3 to 4 minutes, turn the fish over and place on aluminum foil. Move the fish to a cooler part of the grill or reduce the heat. Grill until the fish is opaque throughout when tested with the tip of a knife and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the fish reads 145°F (about 4 minutes longer). Remove the salmon and place on warmed plates. Garnish with green olives and lemon slices.

Shut Up & Dance – Interview with Ian Hussey, Producing Director


MANNA: Why Victoriana as a theme?

Ian: Coming up with a theme for the poster if one of my FAVORITE parts of the process. The process starts with a few brainstorming sessions with photographer Brett Thomas, designer Matt Bouloutain of Modern Good, MANNA’s event manager and myself. Brett and Matt are incredibly talented artists and we are so luck to have them. This year’s theme of a singular female in a Victorian style dress came from me but wasn’t even an idea that I had thought of before the meeting. I threw the idea out there and everyone loved it. I could not be more excited about the image we finished with. Kelsey looks so beautiful…an incredible shot by Brett and with Matt’s magic – we created a unique eye catching design.

MANNA: What other elements (themes) will  be presented during the show?

Ian: I can’t really speak on the pieces yet since they are not complete. That is the exciting thing about Shut Up & Dance – there is always a certain amount of the unknown going into the show. As the director, I do not censor any artist or tell someone they have to choreograph a certain kind of piece. I let the dancers express themselves any way they feel and because of that, I often don’t know what the show is really going to look like as a whole until the week of the show.

MANNA: When people leave the show on March 22, what feeling do you want them to take away with them?

Ian: I want the audience to have fun more than anything. There are many emotions in watching Shut Up & Dance every year because of the time we take to reflect on the serious nature of MANNA’s mission. Shut Up & Dance is aimed to uplift and garner hope for a greater future for MANNA and their clients. We aim to inspire continuous support for MANNA and hopefully to return next year with more friends and family spreading the love of this one of a kind show.

MANNA: How many years have  you been involved with Shut Up & Dance?

Ian: This is my 10th Shut Up & Dance that I have  been a part of and my 3rd year as the Producing Director.

MANNA: With every year that passes, what keeps you coming back for more?

Ian: I keep returning to Shut Up & Dance for many reasons but mainly for the impact it has on MANNA. The service that MANNA provides for the community is so incredibly important and it is an honor for the dancers and myself to put this show on every year to help MANNA accomplish their mission.

MANNA: For those who never been to Shut Up & Dance before but have been to a ballet production — how is Shut Up & Dance different?

Ian: Shut Up & Dance is such an unique experience. Many of our shows with Pennsylvania Ballet are either a full length story ballet or consists of 3 pieces in a night. With Shut Up & Dance, you will see upwards of 12 different pieces of shorter length but brought to you by the enthusiastic minds of the dancers of Pennsylvania Ballet. You will see serious ambitious pieces mixed with more light hearted comedic fare. The energy of this night every year…is infectious!

MANNA: Last year, you did not dance in the performance…can we look forward to you dancing this year?

Ian: Yes, you can look forward to me returning to the stage dancing…

Check out Ian, the Dancers of Pennsylvania Ballet and the magic on March 22nd  at the Forrest Theatre – get  your tickets at

Celebrating American Heart Month

This February we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of American Heart Month!


Established in 1964 by President Lyndon Baines Johnson (a heart attack survivor himself), American Heart Month and the American Heart Association has worked to lower the amount of American deaths each year from heart disease through education, research and awareness. It’s a big job because heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.

Although there are a lot of risk factors (family history, diet, exercise and smoking),   most cases of heart disease are preventable (and even reversible!) through proper diet and exercise.  And that’s where MANNA comes in!

MANNA ensures that every meal we deliver is heart healthy by sending fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, and using herbs and spices in place of salt as often as possible. Even our soups are made with low sodium bases to keep our sodium levels within the healthy levels of the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA).

You can follow a heart healthy diet on your own at home.  Keep your blood pressure down and your heart healthy by monitoring the amount of salt that you take in daily. Many pre-packaged foods use sodium as a preservative and for flavor, including canned vegetables. While the dietitians at MANNA would never discourage someone from eating a serving of veggies, we recommend checking the food label before eating some of those canned varieties. The best way to do this is by using your nutrition food label and paying specific attention to the sodium content.  The Institute of Medicine recommends 1500 mg of sodium per day as the Adequate Intake level for most Americans and advises everyone to limit sodium intake to less than 2300 mg per day, the Tolerable Upper Limit.  You can also look at the %RDA for a serving size of the product and if the label reads that a serving is higher than 20%, this is considered to be high in sodium.

There are plenty of ways to reduce sodium content in your canned vegetables. Pour the contents of the can into a pot of room temperature water and let sit for at least 5 minutes. After the time has passed, drain the water from your veggies and you will have lowered the sodium content!  You can also look for low-sodium labels on many products.

Enjoy February…have a wonderful Valentine’s Day…and check those nutrition labels so your heart can be ready – and healthy – for romance!

Health During the Holidays


Holidays are a time of festivities, family and food.  Let MANNA help you put health into your holiday season with this recipe that will transform an everyday dessert into a healthy ending for a holiday meal:  MANNA’s Black Bean Brownies.

These brownies are a new addition to the MANNA menu.  They tempt our clients but are a more protein-rich version of this everyday dessert.

15 ounces cooked black beans – drained and rinsed

3 large eggs

3 Tablespoons canola oil

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon baking powder

Pinch salt

½ cup chocolate chips

1.Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray an 8 x 8-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Place the black beans in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth and creamy.  Add the eggs, oil, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, baking powder, and salt and process until smooth.  Add ¼ cup of the chips and pulse a few times until the chips are incorporated.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top with a rubber spatula, and sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup chocolate chips.

4. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan before slicing into 2-inch squares.

​World AIDS Day- December 1, 2013


World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day that was started in 1988. It is a day for people worldwide to show their support for individuals living with HIV by uniting together to bring awareness to and to commemorate those who have died of this pandemic. Although scientific advances in HIV treatment have come a long way in the last 25 years, there is still so much more we do not know about the virus which has left us without a cure. World AIDS Day helps to raise money for research, increase HIV awareness by challenging myths, fighting against prejudice and stigmatism, and providing education for prevention.

It is estimated that nearly 34 million people in the world currently live with HIV and between the years of 1981 and 2007, more than 25 million people have died of this virus. Recent HIV treatment has improved the mortality and morbidity rates of people with HIV however, according to the World Health Organization; most people do not have access to medical care and treatment. That is mainly due to the fact that 97% of people living with HIV reside in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in the sub-Saharan Africa. That being said, HIV/AIDS does not discriminate and can be found in all countries.  In the United States alone, more than 1.1 million people are living with HIV and over 18% are unaware that they are infected.  World AIDS Day serves as a reminder that HIV has not gone away and there is much to be done in the efforts to fight this disease.

MANNA has been on the front line in the efforts to help individuals in the Philadelphia and surrounding areas who are suffering from HIV/AIDS.  Founded in 1990, MANNA has been preparing and delivering medically appropriate meals to people diagnosed with this life-threatening illnesses.  Through the delivery of 3 meals a day, 7 days a week, MANNA provides hope and nourishment. Currently about 17% of all MANNA clients served have a HIV/AIDS diagnosis.  By providing these vital services, MANNA has been able to help nourish those individuals back to health.

In a recent groundbreaking pilot study conducted by MANNA, Examining Health Care Costs Among MANNA Clients and a Comparison Group, results showed statistical evidence that critical and nutritionally at-risk people served by MANNA incur lower health care costs.  In particular for individuals who had a HIV/AIDS diagnosis, those who were receiving the MANNA meal program reduced their monthly health care costs from over $50,000 before starting MANNA’s service to an average of $17,000 after being on MANNA meals.  The mean monthly costs were also $20,000 lower in the MANNA group as compared to the comparison group with an average of monthly cost of $37,000.  These results indicate a significant impact of improved health and nutritional status for people living with HIV/AIDS who have received MANNA services.  MANNA clients described improvements in health and faster recovery times, which they attributed to their improved nutrition and weight gain. MANNA will continue to strive to provide nourishment to people living with HIV/AIDS in their efforts to fight against this pandemic.  For more information visit,

November Is American Diabetes Month


Did you know that 30% of MANNA clients have diabetes, a chronic disease that causes elevated blood glucose levels and can lead to life-threatening complications over time?  The goal of  American Diabetes month is to raise awareness and understanding of diabetes, its consequences, management and prevention. In the United States, it is estimated that 26 million children and adults are living with diabetes and 79 million more are at risk for developing diabetes. Recent estimates project that as many as one in three American adults will have diabetes in 2050 unless steps are taken.

Symptoms of diabetes can include frequent urination, feeling very thirsty or hungry – even though you are eating, extreme fatigue, blurry vision, cuts or bruises that are slow to heal, and tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands and feet. Due to the fact that these symptoms mirror many other types of disease side effects, diabetes can easily go without being diagnosed making it a “hidden disease.”  In order to identify and properly diagnose diabetes you must know and understand the risk factors, which include family history of diabetes, being overweight, age and race, having pre-diabetes, not exercising regularly, high blood pressure,  low HDL and/or high levels of triglycerides, and a history of gestational diabetes.

If you are at risk, MANNA suggests focusing on the risk factors that you can change.  For example, you can manage and sometimes prevent diabetes by eating a healthy diet and exercising.   Maintain a healthy weight, stay physically active and by get regular physicals.

At MANNA one of the most common dietary modifications that we give our clients is our diabetic, heart healthy menu. Our diabetic meals are carbohydrate-controlled and we prepare diabetic desserts with sucralose-based artificial sweeteners like Splenda.  We strive to keep all MANNA desserts fruit and vegetable-based.

For more information, visit

Healthy Halloween


Halloween is the time of the year that you can have your candy and eat it too!  But with obesity rates rising and other health issues related to excess sugar and process foods, these sweet treats can do nightmares to your body. According to Donna Arnett, Ph.D, chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Alabama-Birmingham’s School of Public Health, the average child accumulates 3,500-7,000 calories worth of treats on Halloween night.

Here at MANNA, we want you to have your fun so here are five tips for a healthy Halloween:

  1. Eat before you go Trick or Treating. Have a healthy meal before getting dressed up and hitting the streets – this will reduce the amount of candy you eat along your travels.
  2. Get moving! Pick neighborhoods that are easily walkable – this way your kids are adding in exercise with their fun.
  3. Keep your favorites and hide the rest. Moderation is key to all things in life. Either agree with the amount of candy they can have per day from their stash or keep their favorites and get rid of the rest by donating them to Operation Gratitude as part of a Halloween Candy Buy-Back program that sends care packages to US troops overseas.
  4. Hand out non-sugar foods such as granola bars, crackers, pretzels or trail mix.
  5. When you have the option… go for the dark chocolate option!

Halloween is the beginning of the holiday season – so make sure it is a healthy start! 

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month


When Valarie Maddox was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, her two young daughters needed MANNA’s support as well.  Valarie avowed, “The meals are great because I am a single mother and I live with my two daughters.  To see the strain on my daughters and their worry because I was always the cook in my house, the MANNA meals helped to take the pressure off of them knowing I was taken care of.”

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide and the incidence continues to rise steadily with over 1 million new cases and almost half a million deaths annually.  Currently the direct cause of breast cancer is not known; education, awareness and early detection remain as the key components to combating this disease.  October marks National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, when people across the world increase awareness of the disease and fundraise to support research in search of a cure.

In 2007 MANNA partnered with the Susan G. Komen Philadelphia organization to provide medically-appropriate meals to hundreds of women and families battling breast cancer.  This partnership ensured access to nutritious meals early in their treatment, increasing their chances of survival.  Since 2007, MANNA has nourished back to health over 500 individuals diagnosed with breast cancer.

“MANNA has helped me so much with their meal program.  When I was too tired to cook I was able to heat up a meal which helped me a lot.  I felt like if I didn’t have MANNA, my nutrition would not have been as good,” MANNA client Chanel Royster noted.

Charlene Callicut, a current MANNA client agreed, “MANNA has provided me a lot of support since day one.  It really helped me with my eating and providing me with nutritious food.  The type of food that they are sending me is good food, and it tastes good too.”

For more information on ways that you can become involved with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, go to

Sue Daugherty – Our #Health Hero


Philadelphia’s health blog staple – Be Well Philly of Philadelphia Magazine has announced its 16 semi-finalist for their annual Health Hero Challenge. Out of over 500 entries, MANNA’s Executive Director, Sue Daugherty was named one of the 16. Voters can start voting and showing their support on September 10th when voting begins. Voters are allowed to vote once a day – every day until September 16th when voting for Sue’s round ends. We sat down with Sue to find out what she thinks about the nomination and what she is doing to make MANNA a health hero to thousands of ill neighbors throughout the greater Philadelphia area. Make sure to Like Be Well Philly’s Facebook page to be able to vote!

How did you feel when you found out you were nominated and a semi-finalist for the Be Well Philly Health Hero?

I was shocked and honored. What a great forum for me to talk about MANNA and the work we do.

What is your idea of what a Health Hero means?

Someone who takes seriously their role in learning and understanding what being healthy means and spreads that message.   Your health needs to be a lifelong commitment that requires discipline.

MANNA focuses on nutrition and food as medicine and you have been a key force in the science of the MANNA meals. Could you speak more about what “food as medicine means”?

I often tell patients that your body is like a car – if you don’t put gas in it you are not going anywhere. You may splutter along for a little while, but eventually without the proper fuel, you aren’t going to get too far. Like a car, you need to fuel your body with good nutrition as the foundation and base for all your treatments.  The prescription bottle and its contents are next to useless without certain nutrition standards met first.

Speaking of food as medicine, MANNA was recently published in The Journal of Primary Medicine and Community Health: Examining Health Care Costs Among MANNA Clients and a Comparison Group. What were the key finds from the research?

Keeping someone nourished in the home is saving significant health care cost – study results.  MANNA clients who received complete nutrition cost the health care system less, are hospitalized for less days and when discharged they are more likely to be discharged to home versus sub-acute or long term care.

When did your love/passion for health begin?

Hmm, I think my passion began early in my profession working with the HIV/AIDS population.  I always had an interest and studied nutrition.  I knew it was important, but I don’t think I really fully understood its impact until I saw patients fighting for their lives first hand.  I was watching patients wasting away/dying from AIDS – but over and over again I saw patients that were nourished and physically strong able to tolerate their treatments better.  It was at this time that I started to talk about food as medicine. I counseled my patients to think of food as a pill and just like you needed to take your pills at a certain time it was just as critical to eat at regular times.

What do you believe is the best way to stay healthy?

I think everything in moderation and balance.  Eating healthy and physical exercise should be part of your life routine but not rule your life.  Too many times I’ve made the mistake of going on a “diet” or some intense exercise regimen.  The problem with diets and crazy workouts is their not sustainable; there is a start and an end.  Often when you fail (missing a day at the gym or eating a “forbidden” food) you feel bad about it and end up eating worse or not working out at all.  It really is a balance for me – it is a routine but it’s okay to take a day off.

Besides good nutrition, do you do anything else to stay healthy?

For me health is defined by a lot.  Yes, good nutrition and regular exercise (the kind that makes you sweat) are important.  Just as important for me is laughter and not taking life too seriously.  It’s so easy to get caught up in work demands and my profession is important to my mental health and my identity, but sometimes you just have to have a good laugh and usually it’s at myself – I have 7 nieces and nephews who are all under the age of 11 and I have to tell you they are pretty good at keeping me in check!

What is your favorite exercise?

Running is therapy for me and always surprises me – I’ve been running for the past 20 years and I still can’t predict a good or bad run?  Spin is another favorite exercise – I love the music!

Who is your personal health hero?

Patricia Sola founder of Hope Initiative – Namibia, Southwest Africa.  In 2007 I had the honor of traveling to Namibia with a small team to work with Patricia to help develop nutrition programs for OVC’s (orphans and vulnerable children) living in squatter settlements. Patricia was an inspiration and continues to be.

Who or what makes you motivated to stay healthy?

MANNA clients – they are fighting for their life.  I know what a gift my health is – I never take it for granted and want to do everything in my power to ensure I continue a healthy lifestyle.

How do you treat yourself? Any forbidden foods that you just can’t stay away from?

Of course, I don’t believe in forbidden foods – my belief is “all foods fit.”   I would have to say that Chickie and Pete’s crab fries with cheese sauce are my favorite.

While eating out, what’s your trick on watching your calorie intake with all of Philadelphia’s amazing restaurants around?

I hardly ever order an entrée for myself – I love to share or get a salad and an appetizer for my meal.

What is your favorite MANNA pie?

Sky Pie