Nashville Church of Christ
Healthy Weight Collaborative - Phase 2
By Julie Eisen
Meet the Team
Along with prayer and bible study, in the last year Nashville Church of Christ (NCOC) in Holmes County, Ohio has become a place to learn and practice healthy eating. Located in the heart of rural Amish Country, 63 percent of the county’s population is either overweight or obese. In early 2012, Brad Dodson, the minister at NCOC, saw this statistic reflected in the non-denominational church’s 200-person congregation, which led him to form Fit to Serve, a program to promote healthy living. Fit to Serve set the groundwork for the Holmes County Healthy Weight Collaborative team, which is targeting all NCOC congregants, ages 11-60.
In Holmes County, the high-starch, high-fat desserts associated with Amish cooking are celebrated throughout the community. “So much is centered around food in our area,” says Renee Spencer, MS, the team’s leader, an early intervention specialist for the county and a church congregant. “When we constantly serve indulgent foods at places like youth group, we are teaching our kids unhealthy eating behaviors. We are trying to change this by making healthful choices part of the culture of our church.”
One way the team is engaging congregants to take steps toward adopting better eating habits is by holding healthy cooking classes. At the classes, Spencer presents a slideshow on the importance of a healthy lifestyle and she explains the “Living Fit to Serve 5 2 1 Almost None” message. The message suggests a daily recommendation of five fruits or vegetables, two hours or less of screen time (including the computer and TV), one hour of physical activity and almost no sugar-sweetened beverages. If fewer than 12 people sign up, Spencer holds the classes at her home, which provides an intimacy she relishes. She and members of the team demonstrate how to make dishes like winter soups with substitutes for heavy cream, low-calorie casseroles and a variety of creative salads. Participants make the food themselves and finish the evening by sitting around her kitchen island and eating.
“This is my favorite way [to hold the classes],” says Spencer. “People ask tons of questions, laugh and share.It helps people move on their journey to changing food habits.”
A key to successful behavior change is having a support network. “That is where I see the church really helping,” says Spencer.
So far the team has held five cooking classes. For 2013, the team looks forward to inviting local doctors to provide cooking demonstrations in a series called “Cooking with a Doc.”