Tag Archives: food

Faith Community on the Move: Food for the Soul

“When he saw them coming, he was overcome with pity and healed their sick. Toward evening the disciples approached him. “We’re out in the country and it’s getting late. Dismiss the people so they can go to the villages and get some supper.” But Jesus said, “There is no need to dismiss them. You give them supper.”   – Matthew 14:14-16

Check out Ayinde and Donna and vote for “Food for the Soul” in the Let’s Move Video Challenge! http://t.co/ofX8HAB

Diet-related diseases disproportionately impact African Americans in the United States. The top chronic diseases decreasing the quality of life of African Americans include diabetes, cancer, stroke, hypertension and heart disease with obesity as the gateway. Obesity—which is the precursor to many chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease—alone costs the United States more than $117 billion. That’s why President Obama under the Affordable Care Act has placed priority on prevention to  improve the health of Americans but also control health care spending.  By concentrating on the underlying drivers of chronic disease, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) helps us move from today’s sick-care system to a true “health care” system that encourages health and well-being.

And in the District youth are vulnerable to childhood obesity placing the District as a top 10 offender in America though it ranks 7th lowest among adults. With a population of 591,833, the District of Columbia’s African-American population comprises slightly more than half (50.7%). Of that number, majority are living in Wards 7 and 8 which has experienced a lack of affordable, accessible and quality foods and nutrition. For instance in the D.C. Department of Health’s Obesity Report, Ward 7 and 8 has a total of 6 large and small grocery stores and two farmers markets compared to Ward 2 and 3 has 16 large and small grocery stores and 7 farmer’s markets and 4 organic markets. Overall one-third (33%) of District adults consumer the recommended five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day based on data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

With the growing epidemic of diet-related diseases, faith-based institutions can play a key role in influencing health eating efforts among their congregation. Few faith-based program interventions integrate its teachings with nutrition education, particularly using a participatory approach. At the St. Teresa of Avila Roman Catholic Church in southeast Washington, DC, participants attended “Food for the Soul” a faith-based eight weekly nutrition sessions. They received weekly incentives for completing assignments to reinforce healthy behaviors. Activities included writing in journals, creating  kitchen commandments, and preparing healthy recipes.

As a result, participants are preparing more meals at home with fruits and vegetables. Also participants reported an improved sense of self and incorporating their faith made a positive impact in goal achievement.  At the end members supported the development of a new culinary ministry which Parish Life Council approved. 

Church members have shown their excitement and encouragement for more programs in nutrition education, food safety and wellness. Given the high unemployment in communities such as East of the River, many families wouldn’t be able to afford private nutritionists and personal trainers to improve their health and quality of life. Therefore the federally-funded programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program are vitally important. By doing so, we continue to provide citizen-demanded nutritional services with culturally competent nutrition professionals. Ultimately we can address the health disparities and curb the diet-related disorders preventing another generation from seeing its full potential.

At the beginning of the program, participants wrote letters to God about their nutritional goals:

We truly are what we eat, thus we must watch what we take in. Eating must be life giving. This comes at a critical time for me. It brings structure to my Lenten journey. My sacrifice truly will be a journey of discipline using natural (things already available from nature) substance to replenish my body through meals. The suggested meditative habit will help guide me to a closer relationship with God. – Food for the Soul adult participant

I learned that I don’t need mass quantities of food to be satisfied or several cups of juice to be refreshed. I will most definitely drink coconut water instead of Gatorade. I like the fact that food symbolizes freedom and after today I look forward to this idea expounded upon and being fully understood. – Food for the Soul youth participant

Dear God,

I want to experience true vitality again to breathe better, feel stronger, act more boldly. Also I see a need to eat less and think about food less. Please help me to make healthy choices about what I eat and save for others. Help me to eat more mindfully and prayerfully. And help me to remember those who don’t have enough to eat.  – Food for the Soul adult participant

Together participants created healthy dishes. Below is a copy of a recipe for Warm Apple Crisp.

Tambra Stevenson is the President of the Student Dietetic Association at the University of the District of Columbia. You can follow her on Twitter @tambra.

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Raw Food Chef Shares His Path to Healing His Community

by Tambra Stevenson

WASHINGTON, DC (March 18, 2012)—While most people celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with green drinks and friends, a small group dined on raw greens from cabbage to kale prepared by Chef Heru, a trained electrical engineer by day and a raw food chef by night.

In honor of the House of N’Golo’s founder, Amensa Sheps Teker, Nkechi Taifa, Esq. and Dakarai James Kearney opened their northwest home with a special libation and featured a pan-African- inspired raw food menu of African herbal broccoli, spicy kale salad and African pepper cabbage.

Additional special guests included Dr. Baruch Ben Yehudah, owner of Everlasting Life Cafe, Rev. Ivy Hylton, owner of Serenity Healing Arts and author of Journey into Inner Peace, W. Bruce Willis, author of the Adinkra Dictionary, and Yirser Ra Hotep, founder of the YogaSkills Method focused on Kemetic yoga.

The menu creator, Chef Heru, teaches raw food classes for the House of N’Golo to the continue tradition of showing raw foods using traditional African spices to heal the community. In his herbal broccoli recipe he uses spirulina (a sea plant protein) along with moringa, an African spice. The moringa comes as crushed leaves containing all essential amino acids and rich in proteinvitamin Avitamin Bvitamin C, and minerals.

For his kale salad, he adds fresh ginger (which is used as an astringent in the Caribbean), lemon to create alkalinity in the body,                                                                                            and garlic to boost immunity. His Amensa savory pie is walnut pate layered with plantains, avocado, caraway seeds, and sundried tomatoes.

Influenced by his mentor and the cultural shift in the city, he began his journey into raw foods: “After the 1970s there was a wave of people reconnecting with their history, and a spiritual and cultural movement to bring traditional African systems to the forefront in bridging the gap between people of African descent in America and on the continent.”

For Chef Heru, food comes from a spiritual source. “We are spiritual beings having human experiences. The body uses the different colors of food for a nutritional and spiritual connection; so when you eat junk food, your body and spirit doesn’t function at an optimal level.”

He goes on to say: “Ancient African systems such as the Yoruba, Akan, and Khemetic share about the direct connection of the divine self, and food is part of the spiritual development of people.”

Ancient systems like Yoruba, Akan,  Khemetic talk about the direct connection the divine self and food is one component of the spiritual development of people.

After studying electrical engineering at the University of Delaware, he moved to the District after landing a job with the U.S. Navy and later took graduate studies in engineering and telecommunications at the George Washington University. He later received his training from Dr. Llaila Afrika in naturopathic/wellness and African herbal science from Dr. Kofi Asare of Ghana and iridology of Dr. Paul Goss.

“In the 1980s, I attended the ‘Know Thyself’ lecture series by Anthony Browder, a renowned Egyptologist, who brought speakers into the District as part of the wave,” shard Chef Heru, “Also WR Radio1450 AM (which is now Radio One) had a lot of cultural, spiritual, and political discussions.”

Inviting people on this pan-African raw food adventure, Chef Heru is completing a cookbook with 108 raw food recipes with information on the electromagnetic properties of the food and the spiritual essence of nutrition.

Hosted by O’Natural, Chef Heru will be one of seven raw food chefs preparing culinary dishes of southern, African and Caribbean origin  for the Raw Food Feast and Fundraiser at the Ideal Academy located at 101 T Street Northeast Washington, D.C. on May 5th from 1:00 – 6:00pm.

Tambra Stevenson is the student representative for the D.C. Metropolitan Area Dietetic Association is hosting its annual meeting at the George Washington University. Learn more at www.eatrightdc.org. Stay connected  with Tambra by following her on Twitter @tambra.

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Trail Begins at USDA in Search of African Foods

by Tambra Stevenson

WASHINGTON, DC—In the quest for answers about the absence of the nutrient analysis of African foods in the United States, a visit to the Beltsville [Maryland] Human Nutrition Research Center (BHNRC) of the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) becomes the first step.

The Student Dietetic Association (SDA) of the University of the District of Columbia takes a tour of the facilities and hears presentations by senior scientists. During the meeting, SDA President Tambra Stevenson raises the question about including African food composition to the U.S. nutrient databases to Pamela Pehrsson, PhD, USDA nutritionist who works on these databases at ARS.

Dr. Pehrsson states that one food sample costs $2,000 and a minimum of 12 samples per food item is conducted. She further states that nutrient analysis is planned around the season and crops are gathered from various states in different climates.

As part of the BHNRC, researchers like Perhrsson work                                                 within the three ARS laboratories:  the ARS Nutrient Data Laboratory, the ARS Food Composition and Methods Laboratory, and the ARS Food Surveys Research Group. These labs develop methods and obtain food-composition data and dietary-intake survey results for public use.

Like Pehrsson who declares the importance of capturing nutrient analysis of traditional foods in Alaskan communities more than five years ago, Stevenson states, “As a future registered dietitian working with foreign-born African and Caribbean communities, the inclusion of their traditional foods in the database can help to develop culturally-based dietary therapies for people with diabetes and other health problems.”

To reinforce this point the foreign-born African population has been a growing population in the United States according to the Brookings Institution.

Stevenson inquires if it’s possible to use the International Network of Food Data Systems (INFOODS) to include African and Caribbean foods into the U.S. nutrient databases.

Since 1990, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations coordinates efforts to improve the quality and worldwide availability of food analysis data and to ensure that anyone anywhere would be able to obtain adequate and reliable food composition data. Within INFOODS, the AFROFOODS section continues to face capacity building as its main issue to develop an Africa-wide food composition database. Currently some African countries use existing food composition tables from developed countries which may have little analysis of tradition African foods.

“Because discretionary funding is shrinking, we must collaborate with industry and universities,” states Joseph Urban, PhD, research leader for USDA Diet, Genomics and Immunology. Partnerships include Tufts University, Nestle and DMI to name a few.

”There are several roles that the food industry, government agencies and universities can play in updating and maintaining this valuable data bank,” Kathleen C. Ellwood, Ph.D., former USDA National Program staff, shares at the 23rd National Nutrient Data Conference more than a decade ago.

“Those roles include providing verifiable information about new food products, providing food samples for analysis, conducting sample analysis, providing data, and direct funding.” She goes on to state that the current funding for the Nutrient Data Laboratory is insufficient to meet the challenge of acquiring new data to reflect changes in the food supply and to continuously update existing data. Therefore, it is imperative that the National Nutrient Data Bank is supported by its numerous partners.

Dr. Urban shares how to advocate for adding new items to the USDA research agenda. “This is the right time to contact the USDA human nutrition program leaders, David Kurfeld and John Finley because the Office of Scientific Quality Review will be reviewing programs to include by year 2013 for the revised 5-year nutrition plan.”

Tambra Stevenson is the President of the Student Dietetic Association at the University of the District of Columbia. Follow her on Twitter at @tambra.
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Mandela’s cookbook has an extra ingredient—sweet justice

Personal Chef shares how she bonded a nation’s family together with food

WASHINGTON, DC—On Friday Busboys and Poets prepared a distinct dish—umsila wenkomo (oxtail stew)—from the prized cookbook,”Ukutya Kwasekhaya [home cooking] – Tastes from Nelson Mandela’s Kitchen,” by his personal chef, Xoliswa Ndiyiya. The cookbook shared 62 recipes enjoyed by former South African president Mandela’s family.

Hosting the special event, Andy Shallal, proprietor of Busboys, provided opening remarks. Special guests included Ebrahim Rasool, South African Ambassador to the US and Mandela’s daughter, Zindziswa (Zindzi) Mandela-Hlongwane who was 18 months old when her father was sent to Robben Island.

Busboys Owner Andy Shallal, Tambra Stevenson, and South African Ambassador Rasool

Marking the centennial of the African National Congress in South Africa, Ambassador Rasool gave thanks and started the dialogue for the first-ever Global African Diaspora Summit this May in South Africa.

”Twenty-two years ago South Africans struggled, marched and died for Mandela’s release from prison,” said Ambassador Rasool, “Apartheid wasn’t just a separation of people but also food. If you were a Black prisoner, you weren’t allowed to eat white bread.”

Retold in his memoir, “A Long Walk to Freedom” Mandela noted how racism impacted food choices. The problem of color existed in the sugar and bread: white prisoners had white sugar and white bread, colored and black prisoners’ brown sugar and black bread.” Ironically whole wheat bread was more nutritious than the white bread sold on the black market during Apartheid.

Ambassador Rasool looks on as Zindzi Mandela-Hlongwane autographs her father's picture.

On stage Ndiyiya recalled her time with Mandela:  “He gave me the job in two seconds.” Fondly named ‘Dada’ he asked, ‘Tell me that you can cook our home food.’ Without delay, she said, “I can.”  One time US President Bill Clinton said to Mandela: ‘I will steal her from you.’ And he replied, ‘Not in your dreams.’ She was thankful that she contributed to his life. After the event, Mandela’s daughter autographed her father’s portrait in the Langston room.

Tambra Stevenson is the President of the Student Dietetic Association at the University of the District of Columbia where she is refreshing her media skills by taking a web journalism course. You can follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/Tambra or email her at tambra.stevenson@alumni.tufts.edu.

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