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How Important Is Nutrition for the Seriously Ill?

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In September 2002, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, formerly the American Dietetic Association, released a paper initialing the importance of dietary health in older individuals receiving long-term care.

"[T]he principles apply for any adult with an advanced illness," according to studies by Living with Serious Illness.

"Eating is not just a biological process," the study explains. "Food has many social, cultural, and psychological meanings as well. These factors have a strong influence on our enjoyment of life."

In particular, the AND stresses the importance of liberalized diets among weak and ailing persons, suggesting that harsh dietary restrictions may not be entirely beneficial to these individuals and advocating the introduction of "comfort foods" into their dietary plans.

The reason for this approach is that when a person struggling with illness has a truly good, well-rounded meal that he or she can enjoy, not only are that person's vital nutritional needs met, but the quality of life is improved, positively affecting the patient on an emotional and psychological level as well.

Living with Serious Illness concludes: "The take-home message? What individuals with an advanced, life threatening illness eat is generally not as important as how much they enjoy the experience of eating."

 

Feeding Philadelphians in Need: MANNA

This philosophy is in keeping with the mission of the local non-profit Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance (MANNA). MANNA cooks and delivers three meals a day to participants from Southeastern Pennsylvania to Salem, New Jersey, providing them with "nutritious, medically-appropriate" food and "nutrition counseling."

MANNA has been doing this work since 1990, when it was founded to help meet the nutritional needs of men and women suffering from HIV/AIDS. Since then, it has extended its services to any individuals at "acute nutritional risk."

oMANNA's meal delivery and consultation program lasts nine months, and is given free of charge regardless of the participant's financial situation.

Meal plans are built according to the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and nutritional experts. 11 different diets are available, and dietary modifications can be made according to a participant's specific nutritional requirements and even their individual taste.

In addition, participants are able to receive 10 hours of professional nutritional counseling during their time in the program. MANNA staffs between four and six licensed dietitians at a given time, serving both clients and the general public in 9 different counties.

MANNA takes many steps to ease the lives of its clients as well as lift their spirits in their time of need. Any of the clients' dependents are also supplied with meals, so that the entire family is taken care of. If a client's birthday falls within his or her 9 month participation, he or she is given a personalized birthday cake. Seasonal cookies are sent out on holidays, and every Thanksgiving, a full dinner is prepared fresh for all clients at 4:30 AM.

Philadelphians who wish to support this very worthy cause can do so simply by enjoying the very food that MANNA serves to its participants. All meals are available for purchase to the public, and proceeds go toward the costs of delivering meals to the ailing members of MANNA's wide service area.

Readers are encouraged to visit MANNA's homepage for further details.

By Bessam Idani

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