Mindful Eating for the Beloved Community
There is a health crisis in low income communities of color caused primarily by poor nutrition. Rampant diabetes (26% in people of color vs 7.6% for whites), hypertension, heart disease, and cancer occur at significantly higher rates among people of color than whites. Consequently, life expectancy for people of color is 4 to 5 years less than for whites. And even more distressingly, infant mortality for people of color is 8% higher than for whites.
The fundamental problem lies in the quality of food consumed in low-income neighborhoods. Many traditional, healthy eating habits have been abandoned as a result of migration, immigration and high poverty. And the predominance of fast food chains and poorly stocked corner stores in low-income neighborhoods limit the choices people can make regarding food.
Through powerful storytelling and experiential workshops featuring interactive learning, the Mindful Eating initiative will explore the historical and cultural shifts that have affected the way we eat. The initiative will provide the tools to help people reframe their relationship with food to allow for physical, emotional and spiritual healing.
The Mindful Eating initiative will create a national movement that engages mindfulness as a lens through which to improve not only diet and health but to make whole the bodies, mind and spirit in communities of color as a central pathway to racial equity and healing.
The organizers of this movement are a group of Kellogg Fellows, nutrition experts and community activists working with Racial Equity and Healing initiatives in the arena of food and nutrition. This team has produced a book of essays, Mindful Eating for the Beloved Community. The essays emerge from the realization, arrived at through conversations among the contributors, that the act of preparing, sharing and consuming food has become detached from its traditional cultural contexts. Throughout human experience, the preparation and sharing of food was not only a means of survival but a powerfully healing social activity as well, rooted in family, faith and community.
The contributors to Mindful Eating believe it is urgent and timely to disrupt the current lack of awareness and to cultivate a healthy focus on food and the way we prepare and consume it as an expression of dignity, self-respect and self-actualization. The goal is to remind our communities that nutrition is a way to care for ourselves and the people we love. We want to re-connect food to family, community, culture and faith.
As part of this mission, the contributors and publisher, Arch Street Press, plan to launch a school-based initiative that builds upon the typical science-based approach to nutrition curriculum. This initiative will include discussions among students of their own family food traditions, the origins of those traditions, and an exploration of how mindful eating can lead to healthy behaviors at the individual, family and community levels. With secondary schools as a nexus, we will work to establish a movement where families, faith institutions and the larger community re-claim their food heritage and re-integrate food as part of a healthy, life-affirming strategy to good health and social connections. Combining health awareness with civic duty is what many are defining as a movement within itself called “Awakening Community Intelligence.”
The Program Pilot
Every child in America who attends school takes classes on nutrition. They learn about food groups, the importance of eating fresh food, the dangers of high sugar and high fat intake and the benefit of exercise. What they do not learn is the cultural context of food or that the high availability of fast, fried food in their neighborhoods, and the lack of access to the kinds of food they learn about in nutrition class is an example of racial oppression. The Mindful Eating program will use an existing structure — the public school system — and leverage this structure to provide students with an historical and cultural context to understand food in their lives, and in their communities. Most importantly, the program will employ the practice of mindfulness to connect eating behaviors to family, faith, community and social justice.
We believe that almost all curricula in public secondary schools covers nutrition as part of a healthy lifestyle. With the Mindful Eating program, we will enlarge the lens to examine the ways in which food is part of our cultural and social identity, and when re-connected to its communal roots, has the power for social transformation.
The Program will consist of a two day workshop, a pre-workshop webinar with appropriate teachers and chefs to maximize the interactive learning experience. Teachers will participate in 4 additional webinars while they are teaching the principles behind Mindful Eating and 2 post-workshop webinars for continuing support. An evaluation will be conducted after the conclusion of the workshop to measure changes in participants eating behavior and attitudes and also to gather information from teachers and school administrators regarding the logistics of the program.
Webinars (Three months prior to the school-based workshop; 4 during the teaching period and 2 post-workshop)
Webinars, conducted by Mindful Eating contributors, will introduce the teachers and invited Parents to the concepts and principles explored in the book. Teachers and Parents will receive suggestions about how to integrate the book into their teaching along with an explanation of the workshop content. At the conclusion of the webinar, a Teacher’s Guide to Mindful Eating with action items and exercises will be provided. The webinar leader will be available via email for questions teachers may have.
Future tool integrations will include an app that will support not only progress of the program but also to capture data/metrics to evaluate the impact of the program over time as well as in real time.
Workshop Day One
Students who have been working with the Mindful Eating material assemble into small groups to work with teachers and ME contributors on topics of discussion, including:
- Eating as self-abuse (why do I eat the way I do?)
- Examples of communal eating throughout history (what were the benefits?)
- Connecting food to family, community, culture, and faith (a celebration at each meal)
- Food as a pathway to consciousness of structural racism
- Mindful eating as a pathway to social equity and racial healing
Workshop Day Two
- The practice of mindful eating: creating an action plan for the individual and the family
Students and teachers gather to share a healthy meal, using traditional foods and recipes.
For more information about the Mindful Eating for the Beloved Community program and book, click here or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.