Friday, August 7, 2015

Center for Nutrition, Diet and Health in the Community

Unity Parkside: A Taste of African Heritage Pilot 
by LaShell Staples

This summer, the CAUSES Center for Nutrition, Diet and Health (CNDH) piloted a new nutrition curriculum specifically designed for African-Americans and descendants of Africans across the diaspora. A Taste of African Heritage is a program established by Oldways, a nonprofit food and nutrition education organization. The program introduces a six-week curriculum that focuses on nutrition education, traditional African heritage foods and cultural history. 

The purpose of the program is to reduce health disparities by reconnecting African-Americans to the history, culture and foodways of their African ancestors. Moreover, the program’s foundation lies in the extensive research conducted by physicians, dietitians, and historians and evidence-based eating model – the African Heritage Pyramid - an evidence-based eating model that serves as a guide to teach healthy cooking using traditional foods that are familiar to African-Americans. 

CNDH piloted the A Taste of African Heritage curriculum in partnership with Unity Healthcare’s Parkside WeCan! Initiative in the District’s Ward 7 with 16 participants. Many of whom were diagnosed with Type II diabetes, obesity, and high cholesterol, enrolled in the CNDH pilot and attended six nutrition classes. They completed the A Taste of African Heritage classes over the course of three months. The participants learned about the history of traditional African heritage cuisines while being reintroduced to natural foods formerly enjoyed by their ancestors. They also learned about the negative impacts of increased sodium and sugar consumption and how to prepare delicious plant-based meals using whole grains, vegetables, fruits and spices that derived from Africa, South America, and the Caribbean. The participants observed cooking demonstrations and eventually began to prepare the recipes on their own.  The classes encouraged them to explore their family histories, prepare more meals at home,  and share the program materials with their family members and friends. 

The A Taste of Heritage class program proved itself to be a very successful and effective pilot for both Unity Healthcare and CNDH. Program outcomes revealed increased fruit, vegetable and whole grain consumption among participants and a decrease in health risks, as a majority of the participants experienced weight loss and normalized blood glucose and blood pressure levels. The effectiveness of the classes was also evidenced by remarkable lifestyle changes observed during the program.

For example, a few participants began adopting a part-time, plant-based lifestyle, where “Meatless Mondays” were incorporated into their weekly meal planning efforts. Other participants used African heritage spices to prepare meals and refrained from using from preparing meals with salt or sodium-rich seasonings. As class graduation approached, many participants were reluctant to end the program because they had so much fun. They left the A Taste of African Heritage classes feeling encouraged by their results, more confident in their futures, and eager to continue eating healthy. 

Following the success of the A Taste of African Heritage pilot at Unity Healthcare Parkside, CNDH presented the program to the DC Department of Health SNAP-Ed team and received positive feedback. Dr. Lillie Monroe-Lord, Director of the Center for Nutrition, Diet and Health and the CNDH team are currently identifying strategies for expanding the A Taste of African Heritage program across multiple community partnerships, with plans of establishing it as part of CNDH’s core nutrition education offerings. 

Fourth of July Freshfest

By Helen Naylor, CAUSES CNDH Nutrition Educator

 On July 4th, 2015 UDC’s Center for Nutrition, Diet and Health had the pleasure of partnering with the Mayor’s Office of Community Relations and Services to provide nutrition education and conduct a healthy food demonstration at the Freshfest Oxon Run Park Block Party. Though there was a bit of inclement weather, the rain did not stop district residents from celebrating and having a great time learning how to prepare, and tasting a fresh, heart-healthy recipe just in time for the 4th. RightSNAP-Ed Program Coordinator/Nutrition Educator, Helen Naylor (center), preparing a fresh, heart-healthy recipe with Ward 8 Outreach and Services Specialist, Markus E. Batchelor (left) and DC Resident (right). 

The Mango-Avocado-Black-Bean Salsa was a hit and feedback from attendees was extremely positive. Ward 8 resident, Ms. Cynthia J. N., shared: “This dish is awesome and I don’t even like avocados! Super!”
Many residents shared the same sentiments and mentioned that it would be great to have more healthy food demonstrations at community events such as this one.

As the night wound down, I had the pleasure of meeting DC Mayor Muriel Bowser! 
 Unfortunately, there was no more salsa for her to try, but I did have a few seconds to share with her the awesome time SNAP-Ed had with meeting district residents, sharing a fresh, summer recipe, providing nutrition education, and promoting eating in season by shopping locally at farmers markets and taking advantage of the District’s Produce Plus program.

For more information on the Center for Nutrition, Diet and Health, contact Dr. Lillie Monroe-Lord.

No comments:

Post a Comment