By Kaitlyn Brodar, PHW Intern
The Soul Harvest Apostolic Church is a gold-level PHW congregation that has been certified since 2012 and is firmly committed to healthy eating. They have a vibrant community garden that provides a steady source of healthy, fresh vegetables for their soup kitchen, which feeds many individuals in their community. Their pastor, Ann Newell, also takes produce to a local senior living community so that seniors are able to purchase inexpensive produce without needing to travel to a grocery store.
In addition to providing food for the community, Pastor Newell uses the produce from the garden to teach others how to cook healthy foods. At her regular “Cooking with the Pastor” classes, she introduces congregants and community members to new ways to eat different types of vegetables. Her healthy smoothie class is especially popular:
“Everybody wants my smoothie class. They sit in on the class, and they watch me. I say to people, ‘How many people like green beans?’ You get all these hands that they don’t like it. I ask about spinach, and you get all these hands—they don’t like it, they won’t eat it, nothing. Then when I put it in the smoothie and they drink it, they’re like, ‘You don’t have spinach in there!’ and I’m like ‘Yes I do, turn around and watch me make it. It’s the same smoothie you just drank.’ Even on college campuses I have a lot of kids who say, ‘No, we don’t eat that,’ and I show them, you take [the spinach] and you throw it in there. It’s not the primary taste, but you are getting the vitamins and nutrients.”
Pastor Newell prioritizes fresh fruits and vegetables in all of her dishes. “One thing I really like to do is show them is how much fun you can have without meat. A lot of times they’ll say they want chicken breast or fish or something too, but the first thing I do is just show them how much you can do with vegetables. Like my eggplant parmesan is just off the chain. And I do apples and sweet potatoes sautéed together with coconut oil and a little bit of cinnamon. There are really so many things you can do.”
Cooking with the Pastor attendees are not only able to come and learn about healthy cooking methods, but they are also able to take home plenty of food for their families. “When I did pumpkin and sweet potato soup, I gave everybody what they needed to cook that for their family. If you had a family of four, I gave you enough to cook it for a family of four. You were able to taste it and then go home and replicate it.”
Pastor Newell has even found creative ways to incorporate healthy eating with teaching math and reading skills to children at the church: “I do a lot of cooking with my summer learning camp, because math and reading can get mundane. But when you use cooking, and fractions, and recipes, it makes it more exciting.”
Soul Harvest has truly seen miraculous outcomes as a result of their dedication to living a healthy lifestyle. Many congregation members have significantly lowered their blood pressure, lost weight, and reduced their cholesterol levels. For Pastor Newell, healthy eating is deeply connected to her faith: “The Bible tells us, ‘Beloved I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers.’ A lot of people think that prosperity is financial. I think that prosperity is being able to have the activity of your limbs and being able to feel good about doing what you do. So as a woman of faith, I believe it’s partly my responsibility to tell the people how to stay healthy and to be an example to them of moving, eating right, and trying to be a model of good health.”
If your congregation would like to put your faith into action by prioritizing the health of your members, please visit the PHW website at www.healthandwholeness.org.