Healthy Meals Made Possible With $1.5 Million in Grants
For three meals a day, seven days a week, an army of volunteers spread out across Philadelphia. The women and men of MANNA deliver more than just 70,000 nutritious meals each month to people with battling HIV/AIDS and other critical illnesses, they deliver a daily lifeline.
And their efforts are producing significant rewards. An astonishing 99 percent of MANNA’s clients experienced improved health in 2011, thanks to an increase in the number of meals eaten per day and a better understanding of healthy food choices.
The work at MANNA and 124 similar food programs across the country received good news in February as Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS awarded its first round of annual grants, which totaled $1,507,500.
A remarkably successful Gypsy of the Year fundraising effort bolstered the generosity and determination of the theatre community and Broadway Cares’ loyal donors, enabling BC/EFA to award the grants to 125 food pantries, congregate meal and meal delivery programs nationwide.
This year’s total is $162,500 more than what was awarded in 2011 and a remarkable $507,000 more than what BC/EFA awarded just four years ago as the recession began.
Ensuring that a person struggling with health issues has access to a decent meal is a critical aspect of BC/EFA’s grant-making efforts.
"There is no more important component of BC/EFA’s National Grants Program than ensuring that a person who is sick has a decent meal," says BC/EFA Executive Director Tom Viola. "Certainly for people living with HIV/AIDS, maintaining good nutrition is an essential component if lifesaving medical regimens are to have a lasting impact."
HIV and many of its treatments can change the body’s metabolism and the way it processes nutrients. Eating well is key to maintaining strength, energy and a healthy immune system.
In the current economic climate, affording healthy food choices is a significant challenge for many. According to the USDA, more than 23 million people in America live in “food deserts,” which are urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy and affordable food. These mitigating factors are made even more challenging with the costs of medications to fight HIV/AIDS and its symptoms.
In January 2006, BC/EFA’s food service category was expanded to include meal delivery programs and was separated into its own unique grant round. This newly created grant round was divided into three specific categories: food pantries, congregate meal services and delivered meal programs. Organizations that have expanded their missions to include food service and meal delivery programs are offered the opportunity to receive grants of up to $35,000.
In 2012, Broadway Cares provided food service and meal delivery grants to 125 organizations. These grants, ranging in size from $5,000 to $35,000, were awarded to organizations in 36 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Recipients include outreach centers, food kitchens, transitional residences, outreach ministries and personal home care programs.
Since 2006, BC/EFA has, with the extraordinary generosity and support of donors and the entire theatre community, awarded more than $6.7 million in grants to food pantries and meal delivery programs across the country.
The food service and meal delivery program grants are complimented by two other yearly grant rounds: the Nationally Recognized Service and Public Policy grant round in March and the National Grants round in June, which covers emergency assistance programs, direct services, substance abuse and harm reduction services, and quality of life programs. Since its founding in 1988, more than $63 million has been distributed by BC/EFA through the National Grants Program.
The stories of individual organizations assisted by Broadway Cares speak volumes to the importance of these grants for those living with HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening illnesses.
"Your food pantry kept me and my children fed in what was the darkest hours of my life," wrote Shirley, a client of AIDS Outreach Center in Fort Worth. "We could not have made it through without you. We are all doing much netter now."
Rose, a client of Food for Life Network in Miami, felt increasingly alone after becoming sick. "Just to have someone come by twice a week with such lovely meals is so sweet," she said. "It means everything to me."
Because of grants they received from BC/EFA, the AIDS Community Research Consortium in Redwood City, CA, served hot meals four times a week and delivered 6,000 bags of groceries, even as the organization endured a 45 percent loss of government funding since 2009. In Connecticut, The AIDS Project New Haven’s Caring Cuisine program was able to increase its client load by 24 percent last year, due in part to BC/EFA’s Food Service and Meal Delivery Program Grants.
"When I was first diagnosed with AIDS, I didn't have the strength to prepare food or work," said Jeremy, a MANNA client in Philadelphia. "Your delivered meals saved my life. In addition to one prepared meal a day, the MANNA nutritionist worked with me to make sure I was eating better all the time. I gained weight and strength. The medications began to take affect and three months later I've gained back 33 pounds, can cook for myself and am working again!"
Without ongoing support, these extraordinary organizations could not continue providing the food and nutrition their clients rely on as they face a range of medical and economic challenges. What we do together makes a difference toward improving the health of individuals in communities across the country.
View a complete list of 2012 food grants