Church Meals Lead the Way

First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Seattle, WA

by Church Health Reader Editors

“Alot of eating goes on at church,” says Rita Howard, president of faith and health ministries at First African Methodist Episcopal Church (FAME) in Seattle, Washington. “ A church is a central community hub that brings people together to eat and meet, so it’s the perfect place to start impacting people’s diets in a positive, healthier way.”

FAME takes this conviction seriously. Aware that the African-Americans who make up the congregation are part of a population with significant levels of hypertension, diabetes and obesity, FAME introduced faith and health policies in 2011 to enhance healthy eating choices and encourage active living among the church community.

Nutrition guidelines for the church now increase nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and decrease salt, sugar and fat in any meals or snacks served at the church. All church-sponsored meals, such as for weddings and funerals, feature vegetables and dishes prepared with low-fat and whole grain ingredients. Refreshments offered on Sunday mornings after worship always include fruit and healthy grains.

FAME also removed its soda machine and offers water and juices instead. A new water fountain serves high quality filtered water.

A caterer who is part of the congregation assisted in developing ways to adjust favorite menus. “We serve grits because they are part of our culture,” Rita Howard says, “but now they are cooked with much less salt and butter.” One garden bed serves the church’s commercial kitchen with fresh seasoning herbs, and two more beds provide produce for a Head Start program the church hosts.

In addition to feeding its own congregation with healthy food, FAME also weaves nutrition priorities into its ministries. For example, when the youth were anticipating a trip, they prepared a healthy soup and salad meal as a fundraiser. Youth also prepared and served healthy food to the indigent population in Seattle.

Attenders of FAME are happy to have their health supported in as many corners of their lives as possible. Howard says, “America has so much junk food that is widely available and cheap. At church our people know they are going to have healthy choices. When you make a healthy option available, people take advantage of it.”

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