Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church, one of the Capital Area Food Bank’s community partners, is going above and beyond the call to feed those in need by combining their regular food distributions with informative nutrition education classes. On Wednesday, November 9th, I attended one of these classes, which are held at the church’s social hall. About 25 people of all ages turned out to learn from Reverend Carolyn Scales, who runs the hour-long sessions.
Reverend Scales is a 2009 graduate of the food bank’s Nutrition Education Department’s pilot Health Ambassador Program, which helps partner organizations supplement food distribution with healthy learning. Reverend Scales oversees a majority of the food distributions and has managed the church’s participation in the food bank’s From the Ground Up Fresh Produce Grant for the past two years.
Reverend Scales educates class participants on key aspects of nutrition, such as limiting the consumption of fats, salts, sugars and increasing fiber intake and exercise level. Seeing food distribution coupled with simple health education was inspiring and indicative of a step in the right direction for a healthy approach to hunger relief. During the Thanksgiving holiday, Allen Chapel A.M.E.’s policy is that clients must attend at least three of Reverend Scales’ classes in order to receive a turkey from the food pantry.
Classes begin with Reverend Scales asking clients if they are having a “good food week”—had they applied prior lessons to their daily eating habits. The classes at Allen Chapel are open forum discussion and Reverend Scales serves as the moderator. This allows community partners to share advice, support and suggestions. Almost everyone in the class, for example, expressed struggling with removing sodas and sugary “from-concentrate” fruit juices from their diets. Such discussions prove helpful especially to those participants that may feel defeated after a “bad food week.”
Reverend Scales’ charisma and love for her clients made for a surprisingly emotional class! At Allen Chapel A.M.E., it’s hard not to be inspired when talking about nutrition—a subject which might otherwise not be so riveting. One thing that really stood out for me in the class was Reverend Scales’ emphasis on the dignity of the individual when talking about eating right. She encourages her clients to remember the old saying “you are what you eat” – reminding them that life is too precious to make food choices that could shorten it or diminish its quality. Knowledge is power and this sense of empowerment is something that truly has helped move the Allen Chapel community forward in their ministries to help those struggling with hunger.