Sunday, June 3, 2018

Tremont United Methodist Church Gets A Taste of African Heritage

This post was written by Denise Gourdine, a Health Coordinator at Tremont United Methodist Church.

My church, Tremont United Methodist Church (TUMC) is participating in Bronx Health REACH’s Creating Healthy Schools & Communities (CHSC) program. Our church is one of several in the Bronx involved in CHSC’s worksite wellness initiative which provides workshops on nutrition and organizes fitness classes for church staff and their congregations. In March and April 2018, TUMC organized a 6-session workshop series called, ‘A Taste of African Heritage,’ from Oldways, a nonprofit food and nutrition education organization.

Oldways’ mission is to guide people to good health through their heritage, using practical and positive programs grounded in science and tradition. A Taste of African Heritage introduces people to traditional healthy foods and flavors of Africa and the African Diaspora and celebrates the traditional eating patterns of African-American ancestors from Africa, South America, the Caribbean and the American South. The curriculum introduces participants to the vibrant history, culture, and nutrition of African heritage foods, and includes a guide on easily adapting African heritage eating patterns to everyday living.

Oldways provided training materials, lessons and tips on how to structure the program. At the first and last class, each participant had their weight, blood pressure and waist measured. Oldways provided a scale, portable blood pressure monitor and tape measure.

During the sessions, as participants, we had an opportunity to share information about cooking practices in our respective families and communities, and to discuss personal health issues related to eating and lifestyle. We were able to learn about and use the African Heritage Diet Pyramid  to prepare nutritious easy meals. At least two meals were prepared in the kitchen during each session, and everyone shared and tasted the meals. We received information about the health benefits of all the prepared meals  and how to incorporate more plant-based items, herbs/spices etc. into our own meal preparation  for ourselves and our families.

One thing we all  enjoyed were the homework assignments given each week. Most assignments involved preparing a meal using some of the ingredients that were used in that week’s cooking session. On several occasions we learned about a new herb/spice/bean or tuber (a specialized storage stem of certain seed plants) that we had never eaten. It was particularly exciting trying to find some of the unfamiliar food items at our local supermarket, produce store or farmers’ market.

Everyone agreed to make a conscious effort to incorporate the things we learned during the six sessions to improve our overall eating habits, health and well-being. Judging from the feedback, the program was a success.Many in the group wanted to extend it. At TUMC we are committed to sustaining this program and all other programs that will aid church members and others to achieve overall  wellness. Looking ahead, we plan to utilize the Taste of African Heritage Diet Pyramid in our Manna House program, a free monthly feeding and clothing ministry for the community and in the meals  for children attending our afterschool program. You can learn more about this program as well as “A Children’s Taste of African Heritage” (for ages 8-12 and caregivers) and “A Taste of Latin American Heritage” by visiting here.

If your faith based organization in interested in participating in the Oldways program, contact Kelly Moltzen at or 212-633-0800 x 1328. 

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