Pine cones painted by students at Erdenheim Elementary School were among many works by children added to meals for MANNA recipients.

by Maddie Clark

“It’s sort of a way to brighten up the holidays,” said Dan Getman, the senior manager of marketing and events at MANNA, of their collaboration with the Woodmere Art Museum.

While the holiday season is generally a time of joy, this is not the case for everyone, especially those involved in MANNA’s program.

MANNA, the Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance, began in 1990 when seven members of the First Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia began delivering meals to their neighbors who were dying from AIDS.

Many of these individuals were “incredibly ill, isolated and in need of hope,” according to MANNA.

MANNA’s founders discovered that, through nourishment, they could provide love and community to those who needed it most.

Since MANNA’s program began, its outreach has grown to providing meals to those who suffer not only from HIV and AIDS, but cancer, renal disease, cardiac disease and other critical illnesses that leave many people “too sick to go out or cook for themselves,” Getman said.

For most of those 28 years, MANNA has been delivering artwork donated by the Woodmere Art Museum with their meals during the holidays.

According to Hildy Tow, the Robert L. McNeil, Jr. curator of education at the Woodmere Art Museum, Woodmere has been collaborating with MANNA since the beginning of Kids Care 25 years ago.

“It began as a joint effort between Woodmere, MANNA and WXPN’s Kid’s Corner radio program hosted by Kathy O’Connell,” Tow said.

At that time, 25 years ago, O’Connell was hosting a program about people suffering with AIDS. Many children called in asking what they could do to help, Tow said.

This inspired the Mt. Airy school Project Home, Woodmere, MANNA and WXPN to partner and develop the Kids Care program at Woodmere, where students from Philadelphia regional schools were invited to make artworks as gifts to be given to people homebound with AIDS, Tow said.

While Kid’s Corner is no longer a part of Woodmere’s initiative with MANNA, 19 schools within the Philadelphia area participated in the exhibition this year.

The children’s artwork was on exhibit at Woodmere from November 3 to December 16. in the Helen Millard Children’s gallery.

According to Woodmere’s Assistant Curator of Education, Amanda Monroe, “The theme was Places and Spaces in relation to Woodmere’s special exhibit, the Pennsylvania Landscape in Impressionism and Contemporary Art, which juxtaposes Pennsylvania impressionist paintings from 100 years ago with the artworks of contemporary Philadelphian artists.”

On December 10, Woodmere hosted a reception for all the children who participated in Kids Care, their families and the teachers who guided and supported the children’s efforts, Tow said.

“Woodmere staff just delivered the presents to MANNA who will now delver them to their clients…along with a special holiday meal,” Tow said.

MANNA delivers about 1,300 meals a week to people in the greater Philadelphia area and parts of New Jersey, Getman said.

These meals include breakfast, lunch and dinner and are medically modified to the dietary restrictions that patients have received from their doctors.

Students at The Albert M. Greenfield Elementary School in Center City also make greeting cards for MANNA to distribute.

“The students came up with the idea… It’s nice when a ten-year-old that you don’t even know wishes you a Merry Christmas or a Happy Hanukah,” Getman said.