Classes teach food freedom using coaches, chefs and prayer

New Samaritan's Carla Bowens, PhD presents certificates to Food for the Soul partipants

by Tambra R. Stevenson

WASHINGTON, DC—“There are two types of meals: healers and killers,” said nutrition educator Tambra Stevenson during the pilot program called “Food for the Soul” launched at New Samaritan Baptist Church in northeast Washington, DC.

The nutrition class is part of an 8-week faith-based nutrition education program offered through the University of the District of Columbia’s Center for Nutrition, Diet and Health.

Chefs prepare dishes and drinks such as kale smoothies and waldorf salad swapping the mayo for a gut-friendly yogurt.

“If you shop, eat, drink, and create a meal more like Jesus, then you may see a divine change happening with your health,” Stevenson added.

Participants begin the class writing their nutrition goals to God and sharing them with the group. In one letter to God, a participant shared her struggle with diabetes. “I love junk food, and I know I need to eat healthy, but it is hard to have the will power to say ‘no!” I’m not where I want to be yet with my eating habits but I’m trying every day and I know with you by my side all things are possible”

In her gratitude for the program, she states, “I’m very grateful that UDC has partnered with New Samaritan.”

“Food for the Soul has helped me to realize that what I eat is very essential to my well-being and health. The thing that I changed about my eating habit is that to serve God is to serve in every aspect of my life,” shared another participant.

After 8 sessions at New Samaritan with coaches, chefs and the nutrition educator, participants lost a total of nearly 300 pounds, dropped blood pressure levels and cholesterol level. “That’s the power of faith and works! They had the willpower to change, the support and knowledge,”  said Stevenson.

The program wrapped up with a cooking competition with cash prizes for the winners. The winning recipe was southwest-inspired chicken salad using greens and a yogurt dressing.

CNDH is part of Cooperative Extension Services, which receives funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to support family nutrition programs such as the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program.  With a staff of nutritionists, chefs and paraprofessionals, District residents have free nutrition education in the community.

Stevenson is also a student working on becoming a Registered Dietitian who is taking the program to her parish—St. Teresa of Avila Roman Catholic Church in southeast Washington, DC.  “I have seen the difference faith makes in freeing people from junk food and coming home to God’s bounty,” she said.

All Food for the Soul classes are free. Participants receive a certificate for completing the program, recipes, and a bag of helpful gadgets from meat thermometers, measuring cups to a nutrition booklet. Chartered Health Plan and Health Watch were additional partners in the program.

Tambra Raye Stevenson, MS is the President of the Student Dietetic Association at the University of the District of Columbia. You can reach her on twitter.com/tambra or at tambra.stevenson@alumni.tufts.edu.

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