After moving to a new state-of-the-art kitchen facility equipped to prepare 2.5 million nutritious meals per year, MANNA is ready to take on the next challenge: using research and advocacy to create widespread access to high quality, medically tailored nutrition services for people battling life-threatening illnesses.
MANNA, an innovative nonprofit organization that provides medically tailored meals and nutrition counseling for seriously ill people, was founded in 1990 to provide nourishment and comfort to people dying of HIV/AIDS in Philadelphia. Fast forward to today, and the MANNA model has evolved into a comprehensive nourishment program fulfilling 100% of the nutritional needs of people facing one or more life-threatening illnesses across Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. Thanks to over 4,500 volunteers and talented staff, MANNA prepares and delivers over 1 million meals per year, all completely free of charge to the clients.
MANNA’s real innovation occurs at the intersection of nutrition, a social determinant of health, and the healthcare system. According to recent estimates, 1 in 3 patients admitted to the hospital is malnourished, which translates to longer hospital stays and increased costs from complications. Well-nourished individuals are better able to comply with medical care, meaning that the patient, healthcare provider, and payer all have a stake in ensuring nutritional stability throughout all phases of illness. In 2010, MANNA set out to measure the health impact and cost savings associated with the model, and the results were astounding. When compared to a matched control group of individuals not receiving services, MANNA clients incurred $13,000 less in average monthly healthcare costs, they visited the hospital 50% less, and they were 23% more likely to be released from the hospital to their homes rather than a subacute care facility.
The data was so convincing that local Medicaid managed care organizations took an interest in the model and partnered with MANNA to provide nutrition services to their members. Now MANNA works with Health Partners Plans, Aetna Better Health, United Healthcare, and Keystone First to provide high-value services to their members to improve health outcomes and reduce costs. MANNA is spreading the belief that food is medicine when managing complex illnesses and is leading a national movement aimed at increasing access to high-quality nutrition services across our healthcare system. MANNA is the only agency in Philadelphia and the rest of the state that meets the nutritional needs of seriously ill people who do not have the medically appropriate food they need to stay healthy.
The local and regional healthcare system, recognizing the value in using food as medicine to manage serious illness, is beginning to recognize the MANNA-model as a glowing example of how patients’ non-clinical needs can be identified and addressed in a healthcare setting. MANNA is at the forefront of a national movement aimed at increasing awareness and utilization of nutrition services throughout all episodes of care.
MANNA’s thought leadership, under the direction of CEO Sue Daugherty, is inspiring change on a national level as news of our groundbreaking research and innovative model continue to spread to healthcare organizations across the country. The agency focuses on transforming the healthcare system into one that recognizes the vital role nutrition plays in preventing and managing serious illnesses by prescribing, identifying, and paying for medically necessary food and nutrition services from experts like MANNA. The MANNA-model is truly changing the way we think about healthcare.