As part of a “holistic stewardship” program, your congregation could emphasize nutrition to teach and equip God’s people to eat foods that will help optimize their physical health.
We have to make stewardship of our health a priority. God has given us wondrous bodies – vessels to carry us from birth to death – and the better we are for our bodies the happier, longer and stronger our lives will be. A healthy diet is key, and it’s becoming elusive in our culture, where convenience foods are marketed as entertainment and lifestyle.
The latest report from the National Institutes of Health concludes that eating highly processed foods actually encourages people to consume more, leading to weight gain. This news comes as United States continues to cope with an epidemic of obesity and related illnesses (including diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and stroke).
Highly processed foods have become more widely consumed in our country and, increasingly, around the world. High in fats, salts, sugars (including high-fructose corn syrup) and chemical additives, these foods are engineered for maximum taste and desirability. And while they are often cheap to the consumer, they reap big profits to the corporations that market them.
Scientists have long pointed out how the rise in highly processed foods has coincided with a spike in obesity and weight-related illnesses. A correlation? The NIH study concludes that highly processed foods promote obesity.
The simple truth is, if we can adopt new habits of eating we would become healthier. Here’s how your congregation can help:
Embrace a theology of physical health. With talk about tension between “the flesh” and “the spirit,” Paul may unwittingly give people the wrong impression that our bodies are irrelevant. Remember that Paul also taught us that our bodies are “the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19). Healthy living sanctifies that temple.
Start a healthy food club. Gather people in your congregation who want to learn to eat and cook better. They could meet monthly in the church kitchen or one another’s homes and experiment with healthy foods. They could share their experiences and recipes in the newsletter, blog or social media. They could produce a cookbook (see below!).
Produce a NEW cookbook. In the days of yore, congregational cookbooks included all the fatty and sugary dishes you could imagine. Your congregation could focus on simple, nutritious dishes cooked with unprocessed ingredients.
Host a “Healthy Potluck.” Forget the Tater Tot hot dish and cheesy mac-and-cheese casserole. Ask people to bring food made from fresh fruit, vegetables and unprocessed foods to celebrate healthy eating.
Commission a parish dietitian. As parish nurses help God’s people with medical health, a parish dietitian could advise and teach about healthy eating.
Publicize and educate. Think of all the ways your church teaches people: Websites, social media, bulletin boards, newsletters, temple talks, Sunday school.
Make resources available. On your website link to studies and articles on healthy eating. Put cookbooks in your parish library.
Start a parish garden. Many churches have land that stands empty or is just lawn. Plant a community garden to demonstrate how to grow fresh food, provide produce for families and reinforce the connection between God’s good creation and our full plates.
Helping God’s people to eat more healthfully is one way to help them steward that very precious gift that God provides to us all: Our bodies.
Rev. Rob Blezard works as web editor of the Stewardship of Life Institute, serves as an assistant to the bishop of theLower Susquehanna Synod of the ELCA, and blogs at www.thestewardshipguy.com.
© Copyright 2019, the Rev. Rob Blezard. All rights reserved
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