More than Meals
At MANNA we know that what we do is important and impactful. Our clients are some of the sickest, poorest, and most vulnerable members of our community, and these populations have the most to gain from the empowering effects of the MANNA Model. Right now, the nutrition services essential to the recovery and health of people living with severe illnesses are not consistently available across our healthcare system. MANNA seeks to change that. By educating healthcare leaders and elected officials about the health benefits of providing comprehensive nutrition services to those who need it to manage illness, we can ensure these services become a standard of care across the healthcare system.
We are amplifying our impact by reaching more clients in need across Pennsylvania and building awareness of our model among healthcare and policy leaders. Our vision is a healthcare system that recognizes food as medicine when prescribing treatment and paying for care among people with serious illnesses. To achieve this vision, we will need our healthcare and policy leaders to understand the benefits that result from a healthcare system that recognizes the powerful role of nutrition in treating illness.
Read our letter to President Biden for more details of our research-based policy recommendations.
Our Advocacy Areas
Right now, comprehensive food and nutrition services are often prescribed by physicians but not made available or affordable by health insurance plans. MANNA’s goal is that medical nutrition therapy, paired with medically appropriate meals when necessary, will become a standard covered service throughout all health insurance options. Using MANNA’s model as an exemplary standard, we teach health insurance companies, hospitals, and our state and federal health agencies how nutrition services improve health and reduce costs for our community’s most high-need populations. MANNA’s own partnerships with the region’s top Medicaid insurers – Health Partners Plans, Keystone First, Aetna Better Health, and UnitedHealthcare – exemplify our vision for the future. We engage public officials and healthcare leaders in our work so that comprehensive nutrition services are available in public and private healthcare plans, in hospital discharge planning, and across the full continuum of care.
In collaboration with similar organizations across the country, MANNA works to preserve and increase funding for food and nutrition services made available by the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program. Right now, this national legislation is the only dedicated source of federal funding for medically appropriate meals and nutrition counseling. Proper nourishment is critical for all people living with HIV, no matter the stage of the illness or treatment. This understanding must be reflected in our national policy strategy to minimize the debilitating effects of this illness and prolong the lives of all people living with HIV.
Access to nutritious food is critical in building good health, preventing disease, and minimizing the effects of illness. MANNA supports the work of food access organizations that advocate for everyone’s right to affordable, healthy food. We recognize that MANNA’s program is only one piece of the complex solution needed to address our nation’s high rates of food insecurity and the poor health resulting from it. As indicated in the “Continuum of Nutrition Services” below, the MANNA Model is used as treatment for individuals already facing severe illnesses. Although we do not take on the work of more upstream food access programs that prevent the onset of these illnesses, we recognize the role we all play in promoting long-term food security for all individuals. Together we can ensure that nutrition is never a barrier to achieving good health.
More about the Food is Medicine Movement
MANNA is an active member of the Food is Medicine Coalition (FIMC), a group of similar organizations from across the country using food as medicine to treat serious illnesses. Together we amplify our impact on national health policy and share best practices for informing state policy. By circulating sign-on letters, coordinating phone calls, and meeting annually for advocacy in Washington, DC, FIMC ensures food and nutrition services are a top priority on the healthcare reform agenda.
The Root Cause Coalition (RCC) is a nonprofit organization that utilizes collaborative partnerships to address the social determinants of health, with specific emphasis on hunger as a public health issue. Founded by ProMedica and AARP Foundation, this member-driven organization engages in research, advocacy, and education to understand and address the health disparities that drive the nationwide epidemic of chronic health conditions. MANNA joined the RCC in 2017 to share best practices in the field of medically tailored nutrition services and continue learning from partners about the social determinants of health.
Harvard Law School’s Center for Health Law & Policy Innovation (CHLPI) is instrumental in sharing advocacy support with MANNA and other FIMC organizations working to get food and nutrition services incorporated into our state and federal healthcare programs. CHLPI works with a wide range of stakeholders to improve the health of underserved populations, and one of the Center’s main focus areas is improving access to high-quality healthcare and nutritious, affordable food.