Local Organizations Establish Country’s First Permanent Class Sites

PHILADELPHIA, May 15, 2015 — Philly is dishing up a new approach to good health through a cooking and wellness program called, A Taste of African Heritage (ATOAH). Philadelphia is the first city selected to establish permanent sites for the national program, shown to have positive health impacts on participants.

To kick off the initiative, Oldways, the food and nutrition nonprofit organization that created the program, is partnering with five community-based organizations including The Free Library of Philadelphia Central and Olney Branch, Feast of Justice, Community Center at Visitation and the Urban Nutrition Initiative. Each will host free, ongoing ATOAH classes to help communities and individuals explore the powerful health benefits of traditional African Heritage foods. Five additional permanent sites in the city will be added next year.

“Philadelphia is passionate about promoting good health with its citizens and was the perfect choice to house our first permanent homes for A Taste of African Heritage cooking classes,” said Sara Baer-Sinnott, president, Oldways. “The classes showcase the rich history and healthy roots of African culture and traditional cuisine while instilling cooking confidence, basic skills, and enjoyment as motivators for preparing regular home-cooked meals as part of a healthy lifestyle.”

The goal is to help address health issues related to African Americans who are at greater risk for heart disease, diabetes and obesity by celebrating African American culinary heritage, according to Baer-Sinnott.

Based on three years of success, Oldways is expanding its national cooking and wellness program this year and classes in Philadelphia start this spring. The program is made possible through a grant awarded by the Walmart Foundation.

In 2013-2014, Oldways coordinated 100 A Taste of African Heritage class series throughout the country, reaching roughly 1,000 participants. Participants showed marked improvement in healthy behaviors and biomarkers including:

  • Increased vegetable consumption
  • Increased cooking
  • Reduced weight, waist circumference and blood pressure

Much research supports that those at greater risk of chronic diseases can improve their health by eating more healthfully, especially including more fruits, vegetables whole grains, and beans.  However, the vast majority of programs promoting such changes are often couched in cultural terms that resonate more readily with Caucasians and are perceived as asking African Americans to turn their back on their own culture and traditions. The Oldways program changes that with a culturally attuned program created together with culinary historians, nutrition scientists, and public health experts.

The centerpiece of the “A Taste of African Heritage” program is the African Heritage Diet Pyramid, introduced by Oldways in November 2011. This healthy eating model celebrates the traditional eating patterns of early African-American ancestors—from Africa, South America, the Caribbean, and the American South.

For 25 years, Oldways has been dedicated to promoting the powerful health benefits, affordability, and delicious flavors found in traditional plant-based diets worldwide. For more information on attending A Taste of African Heritage Cooking Classes, please contact Sarah McMackin, Oldways program manager, 512-330-0111,

About Oldways
Oldways ( is a nonprofit food and nutrition education organization, with a mission to guide people to good health through cultural food traditions and lifestyles, using practical and positive programs grounded in science. Simply, we advocate for the healthful pleasures of real food. Oldways is the parent organization for The Whole Grains Council, Mediterranean Foods Alliance and Cheese of Choice Coalition, and is well-known for creating the Whole Grain Stamp and the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid.

About Walmart Foundation
Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are committed to helping people live better through philanthropic efforts that draw on the strengths of Walmart in the arenas of sustainability, economic opportunity, and community. As part of our commitment to creating a more sustainable food system worldwide, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are leading the fight against hunger in the United States. They recently exceeded a $2 billion goal to fight hunger one year ahead of schedule and have donated more than 1.5 billion pounds of food to those in need across the country. To learn more about Walmart’s giving, visit