A Taste of African Heritage (ATAH) classes are cooking with fire! Now planned for 78 community kitchens in 22 different states, ATAH is reaching more people everyday.
None of this would be possible without the dedication, collaboration, and hard work of our teaching volunteers. With the Thanksgiving holiday almost here, what better time to say thanks to all of our amazing volunteers. We have been blessed by an extraordinary team of instructors, each of whom are rolling up their sleeves and personally bringing back the healthy old ways in their communities.
Every teacher comes from a unique profession, background, and location -- from Detroit, MI all the way to Jamaica, from dietitians to health coaches to local food activists. These individuals are all working to improve health and wellbeing in our communities, as are the institutions and organizations that have opened up their kitchens or helped coordinate public classes.
To connect all of our teachers, Oldways just launched a new “Teachers Lounge” forum. (We launched this along with our “African Heritage & Health” forum for non-teachers last month.) The Teachers Lounge connects this network of instructors, allowing them to share their unique classroom experiences and help each other re-ignite health through heritage nationally and internationally.
To further celebrate all that we have accomplished together, we would like to take a minute to highlight some of our first teachers who have finished or are currently finishing classes in their communities. We are so very lucky to know and work with each of them!
Danessa Bolling, Chemical Dependency Counselor, Houston, TX
Class Locations: MHMRA and St. Johns Downtown Church
Danessa has the essence of a guardian angel—she is devoted to helping others in any way she can, professionally, personally, and spiritually. Danessa first brought A Taste of African Heritage to her group of outpatients at MHMRA in Houston. She saw increased self-esteem, physical health improvements, and newfound passions for healthy cooking and eating arise in her participants. She’s made a birthday promise to herself to teach A Taste of African Heritage every 6 weeks for the next year at new sites throughout Houston. Danessa has already started teaching her second series at her local church, St. John’s Downtown, with a list of folks already awaiting class site #3!
Thomas Murray, Reverend, Fayetteville, NC
Class Location: Emmanuel Baptist Church
Rev. Murray has made healthy eating and living a top priority at his church. A former natural foods store owner, Rev. Murray stresses healthy living practices at every Sunday service, and he and his team offer nutrition classes to the community twice a week. He’s a believer in learning from healthy populations that have held onto their dietary traditions, like those along the Mediterranean. Most of his ATAH class participants came from outside the church, coming in from the surrounding community to learn about healthy heritage cooking.
Adante Hart, Research Assistant, Baltimore, MD
Class Locations: New Light Church and Terra Café
Adante Hart loves to cook! When he’s not cooking up dishes for his friends, church events, or campus dinners, he is working on community health research at John’s Hopkins University. Currently, he is applying to graduate schools to become a Registered Dietitian with a dual Masters of Science. Combining his academic career in Molecular and Cellular Biology with his passion for cooking for others, Adante brings a scientist’s eye and a chef’s palate to the stove. His participants at New Light Church, including its pastor, Bishop Ben Dorsey, enjoyed a finale potluck on the last day of class and also received certificates of completion made personally by Adante. He is planning on a second class series at Terra Café, with the help of its owner Terrance Dickson.
Elizabeth Joyful Josephs, Jonesboro, GA
Class Location: The Joseph’s home kitchen; teaching members of the Southeast Atlanta 7th Day Baptist Congregation
The Josephs have kindly opened up their home and kitchen, and made teaching "A Taste of African Heritage" a family affair. Elizabeth has a wonderfully eclectic background in food. As a young girl, she learned Louisiana cooking from Creole nuns, followed by a four year apprenticeship with a French chef. She later helped her dad overcome cancer remarkably through a whole food, plant-based diet. She and her husband consider themselves “wellness foodies” and they’re spreading their knowledge and passion to their congregation. Their participants are their fellow church members. At every class, they have a “Blessing Basket” – a pot for participants to donate needed ingredients to, for class extras like fresh juicing tutorials. The group also took a trip together to Dekalb Farmers Market, the largest international market in the Southeast!
Sabine Dabady and Genesis Rodriguez, Nutrition Students, Bushwick, NY
Class Location: SCO Family Services
Thanks to the connecting powers of EcoStation:NY and Program Manager Luis Flores, we have been blessed with ATAH instructor Sabine Dabady and her assistant, Genesis Rodriguez. These ladies have brought A Taste of African Heritage to one of SCO Family Services’ women’s shelters, taking their cooking-demo experiences from Bushwick Farmers’ Markets into a new community. Sabine is currently studying to become a dietitian, and EcoStation:NY is currently gearing up for its annual Winter Solstice on December 13th. If you’re in the NYC/Bushwick area, you can find more info about this special community event here!
Linda Taylor, Certified Health Coach, Philadelphia, PA
Class Location: Cedar Park Presbyterian Church
Linda is a Certified Holistic Health Coach who specializes in leading workshops on wholesome foods. Her tagline “Changing your Comfort Foods into Healthy Recipes” rings true to us at Oldways, reaffirming that our favorite meals can become our healthiest meals without sacrificing flavor. The Cedar Park class, which included the Church’s very own Pastor as a student, enjoyed special extras, like take-home spices each week, yummy desserts made from whole grains or green leafy veggies, and a student’s homemade sweet potato chowder with greens. Linda has not only been a wonderful resource for her church, but also for the ATAH teachers on our Teachers Lounge Forum too—she’s shared extremely helpful suggestions and experiences from her classes to help others with theirs. Two empowering takeaways that she saw in her class were new favorite foods and the knowledge of how to cook quick, nourishing meals with lots of flavor.
Michelle Marbury, Director & Bilingual Early Education
Class Location: Northwood Presbyterian Child Care Center
As you can tell from her picture, Michelle has fun and enthusiasm to burn! She brings this to her classrooms everyday at her childcare center. The Center is an affiliate of the National Black Child Development Initiative (NBCDI), which provides programming and resources to partner agencies to improve the health and wellbeing of children. Michelle has made ATAH a part of one of Northwood’s parent engagement programs. One of the milestones she shared was having a parent from Gambia, Africa prepare the Jollof Rice for the first lesson—a traditional dish that she often makes at home for her family.
Janet Darby, Health Coach, Danville, VA
Class Location: Home kitchen
Janet had already been teaching cooking classes in Danville, VA when she signed up to teach A Taste of African Heritage. Having completed a chef’s program at The Culinary School of Washington, D.C., Janet has made it a mission in life is to make a difference in the lives of African Americans through food. Her ATAH group pulled together through hard times at the beginning of the program (the untimely loss of one of their participants and a change of venues early on), but in the end, one of the students opened up her doors to make these classes happen. Another student offered to open up his business doors, a nightclub downtown, to show a viewing of the acclaimed documentary “Soul Food Junkies.” This kind of teamwork and shared excitement are the glue that will keep this program going ever strong.
Tiffany R. Davis-Jennings, Technician, Powdersville, SC
Class Location: Home Kitchen
Tiffany brings laughter, enthusiasm, kindness, creativity, and discerning taste buds to the food world. New to teaching live classes, Tiffany considered herself part teacher, part student, participating in the before-and-after measurements and surveys of the program, to see if ATAH impacted her own daily eating habits and health. She hosted the class series in her home kitchen, creating an intimate atmosphere for her students. To reach an even wider audience, Tiffany documented her teaching experience, making A Taste of African Heritage cooking videos to capture many of the class recipes and key messages. You can find Tiffany’s videos on The Official Oldways YouTube Channel. We so appreciate your passionate, creative spirit, Tiffany!
Ann LaFontaine, RD, LD, CDE, Jasper, GA
Class Location: Big Canoe
Ann LaFontaine brought ATAH to Jasper, Georgia this fall, to the community of Big Canoe. Ann’s class especially loved learning about the many different types of grains that are available, beyond white rice and grits. Two chefs from a local hospital participated in the program, and Ann reports that they are now using less sodium in their cafeteria food for the hospital employees. It’s this kind of ripple effect that we hope all A Taste of African Heritage classes inspire.
Sarah Overholt, RD, LDN, Plymouth, NC
Class Location: Washington County Senior Center
Sarah Overholt is a Community Dietitian specialized in Diabetes & Wellness. She has been cooking up A Taste of African Heritage in Plymouth, NC – the heart of leafy greens country! Her class met each week at dinnertime, and so they added a few extra hearty dishes to each lesson’s tasting menu. On greens night, they went all out, enjoying the curriculum’s green smoothie, spinach salad, and a special collard green and tomato soup recipe that incorporated the Oldways collard recipe, adding an array of other African heritage ingredients like peppers, beans, herbs and spices to make it a main course meal! Sarah’s attention to detail, flavor, and the surety that her students left full and happy after every class, is a testament to the delicious knowledge she brings to her patients every day.
Thank you to all who are working to make A Taste of African Heritage a great success and bringing back the healthy old ways in their communities.