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


Light up the grill – summer is officially here!   During these months of grilling fun, MANNA wants to help keep your family and friends safe from foodborne illnesses with these simple food safety practices.  Remember! Food safety is a TOP priority at MANNA because many of our clients have compromised immune systems.

  1. Practice good hygiene and wash your hands before eating, preparing food, or between foods that would cross contaminate such as red meat and fresh vegetables. Always wash hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds.
  2. Marinate your food in the refrigerator to prevent bacteria from growing.   Always reserve a portion of unused marinade to brush on food while it is cooking. Never re-use marinade that was used to flavor raw meat, poultry or fish.
  3. Preheat your grill approximately 20-30 minutes before grilling. For charcoal grills, the coals should be just coated with ash.
  4. Use a food thermometer to ensure that food is cooked to the proper temperatures.
  5. Food should never sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Use chafing dishes, slow cookers, and warming trays to keep hot food hot. Keep cold foods cold by nesting them in bowls of ice or rotating items into the refrigerator/freezer.

Grilled Vegetable Kebabs



  • 10 (12-inch) wooden skewers
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 chopped fresh basil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 red onion cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 yellow bell pepper cut into 1 ½-inch pieces
  • 1 pound Chinese or baby eggplant cut into ¾-inch slices
  • 3 small zucchini, cut into ¾-inch slices
  • 20 grape or cherry tomatoes


-Soak the skewers in water for 30 minutes.

-Whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, basil, garlic, kosher salt, and black pepper.

-Thread vegetables onto skewers.

-Brush vegetables generously with marinade.

-Grill, covered with lid over medium-high heat. Turn occasionally. Cook 10-12 minutes or until tender.

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

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

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

Illness Never Goes on Vacation

Celestine Geraldine

Cancer does not take a week off. There is no rest from HIV/AIDS. Renal disease does not let up. MANNA clients battle their illnesses each day, every day, all summer long.

This summer, MANNA client Celestine will travel only as far as her dialysis center. It’s a short trip, but it’s arduous and difficult for her. Intense leg pain. Calcification of her blood vessels. Unbearably painful lesions. Chronic kidney disease has ravaged Celestine. Standing and walking are hard, hard work.

“I can’t tell you how wonderful MANNA has been to me and how faithfully they’ve delivered my meals every week. I feel so blessed to have found out about MANNA and to receive their help. I’m getting my strength back. I’m starting to gain weight. You can’t know how important that is. I had just stopped eating. I didn’t have the strength or the desire to eat. But now I have so many good things in my refrigerator” says Celestine.

MANNA meals are a constant reminder that we care – all of us – and that a helping of hope and targeted nutrition CAN change a sick neighbor’s battle into a successful one. Help us deliver over 200,000+ meals to  neighbors in need – donate today! 

Food as Medicine: Prestigious medical publication affirms nourishment has beneficial results for the critically ill

Sue Daugherty

Sue Daugherty is used to grateful thank you notes that trumpet the benefits of nutrition and nourishment.

As Executive Director of MANNA, (Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance), she heads up a local charity that has been providing life-saving nourishment to the critically ill since 1990. MANNA prepares, cooks and delivers over 70,000 meals monthly and just recently celebrated the delivery of its 10 millionth meal. Meal plans have 11 different diet modifications created for such serious illnesses as cancer, renal and cardiac disease, HIV/AIDS and diabetes.

Though evidence suggested that neglecting the importance of adequate nutrition in chronically ill patients had far-reaching implications on their health (as well as health care costs), solid research was lacking. So MANNA conducted a study exploring health care expenditures in MANNA clients over time compared to a control group of patients without MANNA services. Health care costs were examined before and after clients began receiving services. The study found that the mean monthly health care costs decreased for three consecutive months after initiation of MANNA services. Other health care cost–related factors, such as inpatient costs, length of stay, and number of hospital admissions also displayed a downward trend.

When the Journal of Primary Care and Community Health reviewed the research and found it worthy enough for publication, Daugherty had the satisfaction of adding the weight of this prestigious publication to the organization’s long heralded benefits. Research printed in The Journal of Primary Care and Community Health will show, among other things:

  • Average monthly health care costs of MANNA clients fell 62% for three consecutive months after beginning service – a drop of almost $30,000.
  • For HIV/AIDS patients, costs fell over 80% in the first three months.
  • Even when MANNA clients’ needed hospitalization, their improved nutritional status resulted in reducing the average number of monthly visits to half that of the comparison group and their length of stay for inpatient visits was 37% shorter.
  • Monthly inpatient hospital costs of clients were 30% lower over the six months following initiation of services as compared to the six months prior to starting MANNA.
  • The costs of inpatient hospitalizations of MANNA clients were 40% lower. On average, the MCO paid out $12,000 less per month for MANNA clients.
  • MANNA clients were over 20% more likely to be released from the hospital to home rather than to long-term care or health care facility.
  • MANNA clients living with HIV/AIDS cost the MCO (Managed Care Organization) an average of $20,000 less per month.

For MANNA, the publication provided long sought after credentials for their work that could convince providers there was a less expensive and more effective way to reduce healthcare expenditures.

“With national healthcare looming just months away, hospitals and other healthcare organizations can breathe a little easier knowing that MANNA is a reliable partner to help them reduce costs and keep people healthier,” says Daugherty.  The nourishment provided “is life affirming” she continued, “and keeps people in their homes longer, enhancing quality of life as well as extending it.”

Walking through MANNA’s busy kitchen where a full culinary staff and 1500 volunteers monthly chop and dice busily, Daugherty says, “The publication of our study in the Journal of Primary Care just affirms what we always knew – there’s a miracle brewing on 23rd Street in Philadelphia. And that miracle is MANNA.”

Read our study in the Journal of Primary Care  by clicking here.

A MANNA Client Who is Back in the Game!

PicMonkey Collage

“It was crazy,” Luz shared. “I had no feelings in my arms. I was having severe headaches and awful back pain. It was really scary.” Luz symptoms were caused by a herniation in her cerebellum called Chairi Malformation.

Luz’ doctor took immediate action and scheduled brain surgery. Next he called for MANNA meals.

Luz is a cancer survivor and has extremely high cholesterol and triglycerides. Her nutritional needs were complex. MANNA was the perfect solution. The heart-healthy meals full of lean proteins and vegetables prepared lovingly in the MANNA kitchen filled all of Luz’ needs. And the little touches brightened her recovery – her wonderful driver and the birthday cake and card. “MANNA sent me a birthday cake, AND even sent a cake for my son when HE turned 14. It was so sweet!”

Luz is healthy again – she is back in the game! MANNA meals helped her heal AND reduced her cholesterol and triglycerides. When you support MANNA, you support clients like Luz who rely on MANNA’s help during a crisis – want to help?

The Luckiest Cancer Patient

“I am so lucky.”

Not the words you expect to hear from a man simultaneously battling TWO types of cancer.    Yet, those are the words Don proclaims as he and his wife Dee gaze at each other and discuss illness, life and MANNA meals.  Don,78, is fighting colon AND metastatic liver cancer.


The devotion, thankfulness and love both share is evident as they talk.

Don is not just my husband.  He is my best friend,” Dee exclaimed.  “When he became sick it was hard to watch him struggle to eat.  The food he was eating upset his stomach.  He lost 35 pounds.  MANNA is so wonderful.  Don has gained back 10 pounds!  MANNA meals help us in so many ways.”

MANNA meals have increased Don’s energy level and enabled him to continue his fight. And to enjoy and celebrate life.  Thanks to MANNA meals, Don is looking forward to to celebrating his 79th birthday this summer surrounded by family and friends.

Don wanted to share a message with MANNA and every one of our supporters:   “I really thank you.  You give me not just nourishment but LOVE.” Help nourish a neighbor like Don today – Donate.

Summer Grilling just got a little sweeter

Sunny skies, warm nights and the smell of sunscreen – it really is summer! That means it is time to head outdoors and light the grill.


Keep your summer grilling heart healthy by following these MANNA tips:

  • Be creative – veggies, fruit and even pizzas can be great on the grill. 
  • Go low – load up on low fat, high protein foods. Lean sources of protein such as chicken, turkey, fish and vegetable proteins such as veggie burger and dogs are a great alternative to traditional high-fat, high cholesterol grilling fare. Spice it up! Marinating, using spice rubs and adding fresh chopped herbs to your foods prior to cooking adds low-fat goodness and flavor. Just remember to keep your spices low in sodium.
  • Think safety – to avoid any possibility of food borne illness, make sure that your food is cooked to the proper temperature. You also want to cook foods until they are brown but not blackened to avoid adding carcinogens.
  • Dessert Anyone? End your meal with a healthy, grilled dessert. Try grilling fruits such as pineapples, peaches and even bananas topped with cinnamon and ginger…yum!
  • Make it a Meal that Matters – consider inviting  your friends and family and supporting MANNA clients like Donald by grilling a Meal that Matters.

Chef Keith’s Fiery Grilled Fruit  – Serves 4

  • 2 tablespoons rum
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 medium firm unpeeled bananas, peaches or 1/2 fresh pineapple
  1. In a small bowl, combine the rum, honey and cinnamon (add the cayenne pepper if  you are using it). 
  2. Prepare fruit. Cut bananas in half lengthwise, leaving the peel on. If using peaches, cut in half and remove pit; if using pineapple, remove core and slice into 1/2 thick half rounds.
  3. Place fruit cut side down on grill. Cover and grill over medium heat for 3 minutes.
  4. Turn and brush with honey mixture. Cover and grill 5-6 minutes longer or until tender. If using bananas, remove peel. Serve immediately.