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American Academy of Pediatrics and The Congress of National Black Churches
NFL player Ronde Barber, photographer Shari Belafonte, and former Surgeon General David Satcher, MD offer 7 steps for learning, nutrition, regular exercise, and more.
The Black Church and the Importance of Good Nutrition
What the black church needs to
say to its congregations
about good nutrition.
Work with the
and Policy Initiatives
Leaders Call on
to Stop Targeting
NBCI Declares a National Health Emergency in the Black Church
Body & Soul
What is Body & Soul?
Body & Soul works by combining:
- Pastoral leadership
- Educational activities
- A church environment that supports healthy eating
- Peer counseling
Body & Soul is a health program developed for African American churches. The program encourages church members to eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables every day for better health. Churches that embrace Body & Soul help their members take care of their bodies as well as their spirits. The church is one of the most powerful elements to African American culture, and clergy leaders are key influencers to their congregations.
WHY BODY & SOUL–THE POWER OF PREVENTION
African Americans are at greatest risk for every major health disparity and diet related disease. These include many types of cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. They also are least likely among other population groups to make a connection between fruit and vegetable consumption and reduced risk for disease, particularly cancer. What can you do to lower your risk for disease? The National Cancer Institute recommends eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables every day. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables promotes good health and lowers the risk for these illnesses. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables may be one of the easiest things you can do to improve your health.
THE BENEFITS OF BODY & SOUL TO YOUR CHURCH
Body & Soul churches embrace and celebrate good health through healthy eating. Your congregation will:
- Learn how health and spirituality are connected
- Feel empowered to take charge of their health
- Eat more fruits and vegetables every day
- Live healthier in other ways, such as eating less fat and getting more physical activity
- Gain access to vital health information at the church
For 10 years, African American churches around the country have used this program. They have generously shared their ideas, tips, and success stories. Their experiences have helped other churches start strong programs. Once Body & Soul is thriving in your church, please share what you learned with other churches.
The Blessings of Body & Soul
Body & Soul’s real success lies with the committed, hardworking members of African American churches across the country. Their energy and vision have brought about much-needed changes. As a result, Body & Soul is improving the health of church members every day. Below are just a few of the things churches have accomplished using Body & Soul. Each success story shows how the church used Body & Soul's Four Pillars to meet and even surpass their original goals.
METROPOLITAN BAPTIST CHURCH, Pasadena, California
Founded in 1906, Metropolitan Baptist Church has 800 members. It is located in a suburb of Los Angeles, California. The church launched Body & Soul in the spring of 2001. Its mission was to “promote a nourishing way of eating that will enable us to be more efficient in services to Our Lord.” To start, the pastor, Rev. Tyrone Skinner, named the Body & Soul program coordinator. He chose one of the Deaconesses, a former registered nurse. The two then put together the Planning Team. The Team was made up of members of the trustee board, the Men’s and Women’s Auxiliary, the Hospitality Committee, the seniors’ group, and other church members who were interested in good nutrition and fitness. The coordinator presented Body & Soul at auxiliary group meetings and encouraged their support. Together, the Team put the four program pillars into action.
Rev. Skinner was an active leader in bringing Body & Soul to the church members. He took part in the kickoff event, which was a healthy church picnic. He also served as a judge at a men’s cook off. He encouraged members to bring lots of fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods to the event. He made a special request that the church anniversary celebration feature foods prepared with less fat and more fruits and vegetables.
The Planning Team represented a broad range of groups within the church. So they had a good sense of the topics members wanted to learn about. They also used the church calendar to find ways to work Body & Soul into activities that had already been planned.
Metropolitan’s Body & Soul activities included:
- A kick-off event during the church’s anniversary celebration
- Learning activities such as healthy cooking classes and workshops on choosing, storing, and preparing fruits and vegetables
- Fruit and vegetable tastings
- High blood pressure screenings after church or before choir practice
- A weekly health support group to discuss various health topics and go for walks around the church
- Distributing literature about healthy eating and disease prevention, and posting a Body & Soul display board in the church for activity fliers and other information
- Promoting Body & Soul activities through church bulletins, pulpit announcements, and word of mouth
Creating a Healthy Church Environment
Metropolitan made healthy changes that could be seen throughout the congregation — and even beyond. The Planning Team arranged for a Body & Soul meal before the church’s revival. Through that experience, other area churches had a taste of what Body & Soul offered.
Metropolitan’s Body & Soul Planning Team chose church members to be peer counselors. During the kick off, members of the congregation signed up to get peer counseling. The church members met with their peer counselors one-on-one. The counselors talked about how healthy eating fit in with church member’s values. They showed how it could help them meet their overall personal goals. Church members benefited from the experience. They said it was important to have someone from the church to talk to. This really helped them make healthy changes.
Keeping the Spirit Alive
Body & Soul now thrives at Metropolitan. It has also sparked interest among other churches in the area. The Body & Soul Planning Team applied to become a formal ministry within the church. They have since expanded the program to include physical activity. The Body & Soul ministry has also reached out to other churches, bringing the program to regional meetings. Ministry members now teach other churches about Body & Soul and help them start their own programs.
FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH, Hampton, Virginia
Established in 1865, First Baptist Church has a membership of 1,400 people. It is located in Hampton, Virginia. The church began its Body & Soul program in January of 2001. The Body & Soul program coordinator for First Baptist was a dietitian. She stressed the importance of creating a well-rounded team that included members of the food service and health committees. Thus the Planning Team was made up of members of the Health Ministry, the Women’s and Food Auxiliaries, the church school, and members with an interest in nutrition and health. The Planning Team made a list of nutrition and health topics for their Body & Soul program. Then they surveyed the congregation to make sure the program matched their interests.
The First Baptist pastor laid the foundation for the program by delivering a stirring sermon. He addressed the link between health and spirituality. And he encouraged all church members to participate in Body & Soul. He also gave the invocation at the kick-off event.
Church members tasted new fruits and vegetables and learned how to prepare them more healthfully.
- A kick-off event that introduced the benefits of fruits and vegetables and the importance of preventing diseases.
- Cooking demonstrations that showed healthy ways to make traditional recipes with more fruits and vegetables.
- A gadget party to show people different tools that make it easier to prepare fruits and vegetables.
- A course on patio gardening, taught by an agent from the local extension service.
- A session on how to choose fresh fruits and vegetables, with a speaker from a grocery store produce department.
A 5 A Day challenge held throughout the program. Church members received calendars and checked off each day they ate 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables. They handed in their calendars at each Body & Soul activity, where door prizes such as cookbooks and aprons were given away.
Creating a Healthy Church Environment
First Baptist created a “healthy meals and snacks” policy. The policy requires including fruits and vegetables whenever food is served in the church or the nursery.
Church members volunteered to serve as Body & Soul peer counselors. The volunteers included social workers, teachers, nurses, and dietitians. The peer counselors helped their fellow church members break through the barriers that kept them from eating more fruits and vegetables. The counselors gained a lot, too. They felt a strong sense of accomplishment in helping their fellow church members.
Keeping the Spirit Alive
The steps taken by First Baptist have grown into standing changes in the church. Today, the Food Auxiliary automatically prepares more fruit and vegetable dishes for church events. The members have come to expect healthy options whenever food is served. Members have also become interested in other health topics, and the church holds health related activities on a regular basis. The Program Coordinator at First Baptist is now helping other area churches start Body & Soul.
Body & Soul is based on 10 years of successful programs in African American churches across the country. Two programs were combined to create Body & Soul: “Black Churches United for Better Health” and “Eat for Life.” These programs were conducted in churches of various sizes and denominations. The churches were located in urban, suburban, and rural areas. Regardless of the location or size, each of these faith based programs was highly successful in helping church members eat more fruits and vegetables.
- “Black Churches United for Better Health” was a collaborative effort among 50 African American churches, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Community Health, the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center; the North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension Service, the University of North Carolina, local health departments and local Cooperative Extension agents. It was a four-year project funded by a grant from the National Cancer Institute to the University of North Carolina Department of Nutrition.
- “Eat for Life” was collaboration among African American churches in Atlanta, Georgia and Emory University. It was funded by a grant from the National Cancer Institute.
- “Body & Soul” was developed as a pilot program in collaboration with the American Cancer Society, the University of North Carolina, University of Michigan, and the National Cancer Institute. The program combined the most successful components of “Black Churches United for Better Health” and “Eat for Life.” African American churches in California, Delaware, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia successfully started and ran the program.