The African Heritage Diet is ancient and ancestral, and has carried us through multiple generations and centuries. In other words, this way of eating has been around for a long time. Even so, the recipes and food traditions we teach in our A Taste of African Heritage cooking curriculum (ATOAH) never get old for me. As Program Coordinator, I am constantly re-experiencing ATOAH with fresh eyes every time I connect with a new teacher — and I feel the thrill of self-recognition and cultural pride, as well as the excitement of wanting to share ATOAH with family, friends, and the larger community.
But our Oldways team members are not the only ones consistently reminded of how positively ATOAH impacts its participants. Our ATOAH Ambassadors Network — a collective of talented community volunteers dedicated to improving nutrition and public health — is repeatedly awed by the awakening that takes places in these classes. As students take the six-week ATOAH journey, they learn about their own heritage and history, connect with the healthy foods their ancestors ate, and learn lifestyle changes that lead to longer, healthier lives. The results are powerful, and the experience even moreso. But don’t just take my word for it. The greatest testimonial to the power of an African Heritage Diet comes from our dedicated volunteer teachers that teach A Taste of African Heritage classes nationwide.
A Taste of African Heritage Testimonials
Carrye Brown, Washington, DC:
I started this journey because my husband and I were asked to give a talk at Sunday School for Black History month. The topic we chose was, “What Africans ate during the Middle Passage to the Americas.” Unwittingly, in an internet search I put in the words “African Slaves”, “Middle Passage” and “Foods.” Up popped, the African Heritage Diet Pyramid. My soul — my inner self — wept because ATOAH celebrates healthy food traditions relevant to my culture. Foods that my Grandmother Sylvia and my Mother cooked, were linked back to healthy food traditions in the African Diaspora.
As a teacher and Ambassador, I heard so many wonderful cooking stories about healthy foods, and family gatherings. Many of my students were surprised to learn about the importance of plants, and herbs and spices, instead of meats, in preparing ﬂavorful and healthy African Heritage meals. Proudly, I have shared ATOAH information at breast cancer and diabetes walks, church health fairs, ﬁtness centers, and taught classes at a preschool and senior citizen center. In return, I have gained so much knowledge about healthy food traditions by looking back at my culture through ATOAH. SANKOFA!
Tiﬀany Davis, Clemson, South Carolina:
Since nearly the inception of the program in 2013 I became a teacher of A Taste of African Heritage cooking series. I see, hear, and live (through family members) the health disparities within my community. I now have a platform to show people how to choose healthy food, cook at home, and enjoy a better life. After discovering the many facts and myths surrounding diaspora foods, culture and health, I realized how important it is to gain knowledge, but most importantly to share it! So, I made the commitment to become a Certiﬁed Health and Heritage Ambassador in 2015. During this time (besides hosting health fairs, meet and greets etc.) I have taken certiﬁcation nutrition courses, led cooking classes at a local kitchen store, and established countless relationships with many within the community. I have found the wellness aspect (Lesson 6) to be the most impactful because it focuses on a healthy lifestyle. In addition, I have learned the importance of risks factors (weight, waistlines, and blood pressure) and how they lead to chronic illnesses.
Many of the students tend to ask, “Where is the meat?” My response: “We don’t have to teach you how to eat meat, you already know how to do that.” Once we get past that, most students are surprised how ﬂavorful the food is, the historical history of diaspora health, and how quickly they can prepare meals. It is always an enjoyable event to share time, knowledge, and food with people — and to know it is making a healthy diﬀerence!
Ben Handy, Chicago, Illinois:
We are so very excited to be oﬀering Oldways’ A Taste of African Heritage Cooking Classes to Chicago’s South Side. The enthusiastic response of our supporters and sponsors, Pete’s Produce, Top Box Foods, and the Spice House, has been phenomenal and the “back oﬃce” support that we’ve received from Johnisha Levi, Sade Anderson, and all the helpful folks at Oldways in Boston has been incredible.
I learned of this initiative, oddly enough, through Oldways’ work in promoting healthy eating by adherence to the Mediterranean Diet. I was pleasantly surprised by their expansion of this heritage-based approach to include the cooking traditions of Asians, Latinos, and Africans. As President of my local neighborhood organization, the Ridgeland Block Club Association, I saw an immediate opportunity to bring healthy African cooking practices to my friends and neighbors on Chicago’s South Side. To those of you on the fence, who are considering bringing A Taste of African Heritage to your community…all I can say is DO IT! You will be helping yourself and others in the true African spirit of Ubuntu…”I am who I am because of who we are to each other.”
Oldways is so grateful for our incredible group of ATOAH Ambassadors, teachers, and students that bring these classes to life around the country! Bring the delicious foods and important health beneﬁts of A Taste of African Heritage to your community — learn more here.
Johnisha Levi, Oldways African Heritage & Health program coordinator