Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutritional Alliance is gearing up to launch “Positively Nutritious,” a program designed to get HIV-positive people on the right track to healthy eating.
MANNA, which provides nutritional meals to those with life-threatening illnesses, has assisted 555 individuals with HIV/AIDS in the past year, about 28 percent of its total client base.
“Positively Nutritious” will allow recently diagnosed individuals to enroll in a six-month meal-delivery plan and undergo six workshops that will demonstrate the power of food as medicine.
“We see a lot of HIV-positive people or people with full-blown AIDS who have food-insecurity concerns,” said MANNA director of nutrition and client services Cyndi Dinger. “And that has an impact on things like if they’re going to the doctor and on the overall progression of their health. So we wanted to look at how we can take the MANNA mission to the next level to meet those needs.”
Participants must have been diagnosed in the previous year and have CD4 counts below 200.
While the food deliveries are meant to stabilize the individuals as they adjust to being positive, the program’s educational components are designed to arm the participants with information and tools to face their illness and their nutrition independently.
Participants will attend the group nutrition-education classes and three individual sessions throughout the six-month program.
“This education will enable them to be self-sufficient going forward,” Dinger said. “Our meal program is what we’re best known for but it’s really only a small percentage of what we do because we focus a lot on education.”
Dinger said the participants will receive the information in a “cumulative” way that will allow them to make small changes step by step and build on their growing nutrition knowledge.
The inaugural program will be limited to about 20 participants, and Dinger noted that the small group size will be effective in connecting community members with one another.
“There will definitely be a peer element,” she said. “If we were to do a very large group, people can get lost in the crowd, but by keeping it smaller people can gel better and build relationships and support systems where they can turn to.”
The program will launch in January, and Dinger said MANNA hopes to take on a new class of participants every few months.
MANNA launched its registration efforts for “Positively Nutritious” at a World AIDS Day event Dec. 1, and individuals interested in learning more can contact MANNA registered dietician Nicole Laverty at 215-496-2662 ext. 135.
Jen Colletta can be reached at email@example.com.