The thing that makes A Taste of African Heritage such a joy and success is its students. We have been very happy to catch up with some of our graduates to learn about how the program has impacted their eating and their health. We’re excited to share their stories with you!
Faith Trotter is a single young mother, a veteran, getting her degree in Supply Chain & Logistics at the University of Houston. To help get through school, Faith substitute teaches at her local middle and high schools during the week, and she is an active military reservist, on duty one weekend a month.
With a busy schedule, always on the run, Faith said it was always challenging keeping healthy foods available for herself and her 4-year old daughter Cami. Not anymore. Wanting to learn more about healthy eating, Faith became a student in her local A Taste of African Heritage nutritional cooking class series, led by one of our Houston instructors, Stacy Morrow. Since then, healthy eating has never been easier (or tastier) for her and her daughter. We got the chance to talk with Faith about what she and Cami are eating these days and how their habits have changed since taking the program.
“My schedule is jam packed,” said Faith. “I used to make excuses for not cooking, like ‘by the time I get home and then thaw this and that …’, Chick-ﬁl-A or Burger King was an easier option.”
Read the rest of Faith’s story…
After taking the A Taste of African Heritage cooking series, Faith discovered an even easier routine. “Now, I have a variety of easy, healthy meals that I know will take me even less time to make than going through a drive-thru. I plan for the ride home from Cami’s school – I bring a kool pak with grapes or raw carrots or broccoli, and water to have in the back of the car for her. When we get home, I make Cami a simple kale salad to hold her over while we cook. She loves it. I know that teaching her the beneﬁt of waiting to get home to have dinner, of holding out for a better reward, will serve her as adult.”
After participating in the Oldways’ A Taste of African Heritage program, Faith shares that she and Cami eat more plant-based meals now. “We are thinking about how much nutrition is in everything we are eating. My shopping has changed for the better. I am buying less processed foods and more fruits and vegetables. I am buying smaller amounts of groceries and cooking foods that last us and make us fuller faster, because they are full of nutrients. We buy vegetable chips now, instead regular chips. Everything counts! Cami’s favorite new foods are couscous, peas, cauliﬂower and eggplant – inspired from the class.”
(You can download Oldways’ African Heritage Grocery Shopping List to have with you the next time you’re at the grocery store.)
We asked Faith is her little one enjoys being in the kitchen with mom, and if so, what kinds of things can other parents do to engage their children in the art of cooking? “Cami loves to help me cook, and I love having her help. She’s so happy to empty a can, whisk sauce on low heat, or smash sweet potatoes with a masher. Then she’ll say ‘Look, mommy, I’m cooking!’. It is so rewarding to pass the love of cooking, of vegetables and of healthy foods down to my daughter. I have the biggest say in her diet at this time and, now having the information from this program, I know I am creating a solid foundation for her future.”
Research shows that eating a more traditional diet can powerfully impact health for the better. We asked Faith what kinds of positive eﬀects she has experienced since eating more traditionally and plant-based? “I have more energy eating this way. I used to be lazy when it came to packing my lunch. Now, I have to pack it, I’m persistent. I depend less on people behind a counter and more on myself. Having more energy was something I wanted for this new year and, since eating better, I’ve got the energy and drive to want to work out. Even after a long day of school teaching, reserves and parenting, I have the energy to work out. It’s had such a ripple eﬀect.”
Finally, we asked Faith her perspective on connecting to better health through heritage. “Getting older, I want to know about my own heritage, not just history from America and Down South, but from our African ancestors. Making that cultural connection to healthy foods has deﬁnitely made a diﬀerence for me. It is liberating, and something more African Americans need to know.”
Lynette Oliver was born and raised in New Orleans, LA. Growing up, Lynette was surrounded by “Bayou cooking” that included rich Cajun dishes like turtle sauce, frog legs, and crawﬁsh stew. “My husband and I were brought up on fried pork chops and hog skins – everything we ate was fried.”
Now approaching her 50th birthday, Lynette shares that cooking has never been a big part of her life. This was one of the reasons Lynette signed up for the A Taste of African Heritage (ATOAH) cooking class program being oﬀered at Forest Park apartments where she lives. “I was deﬁnitely not a cook!”, said Lynette, before joining the program this summer.
Another motivation was health. “My mom and both grandparents had diabetes and high blood pressure. I saw that diabetes can lead to other serious issues like blindness, and it made me think twice, knowing that I need to take care of myself and eat better, so that I won’t go down that same road”, shared Lynette.
Read the rest of Lynette’s story…
Lynette jumped into the program with both feet, becoming a helper “sous chef” to her teachers and bringing all she learned back to her home kitchen. “Now,” she laughed, “my husband is married to a cook!” Today, Lynette cooks or re-heats leftovers nightly. Sunday is her big day of cooking for the week. The ATOAH student handbook, which all participants receive, has helped Lynette with grocery shopping and preparing various whole grains, beans, and vegetable-rich dishes at home. Her cabinet is stocked with diﬀerent types of beans and her new favorite vegetable is kale. “Kale is one of the cheaper greens at my local grocery store, so I’ll buy 5 bunches at once to stretch a big pot of greens!”
Lynette says the Taste of African Heritage program has helped her by simplifying cooking, showing her how to keep cooking low-maintenance – fast, easy, and fun. “I have limited time on my feet”, shares Lynette, who is HIV positive, “so I need to make my cooking time count. I’ve learned how to prepare meals in under 30 minutes and how to pack vegetables into every meal, whether it’s in pasta, meatloaf or a smoothie.” Lynette has enjoyed the program so much that she wrote a poem about the experience and shared it with her group.
Lynette’s enthusiastic nature is contagious, and she now spreads the word about healthy eating and the Taste of African Heritage program with friends and neighbors, sharing tips and guidance. “I love sharing my achievements. Anyone who wants to listen, I want to share with!” She’s also sharing with her family – Lynette’s mother is a participant in the Taste of African Heritage program, and her husband is reaping the beneﬁts of Lynette’s new healthy lifestyle. “If I cook it, he’s eating it!” she joked.
Since improving her eating habits, Lynette says she feels better in general—she gets around better, has had less colds than usual this year, and she’s sleeping better. She said that more people need to know about this way of eating, so that they can feel better too. Lynette plans to bring African Heritage Diet literature to her HIV empowerment group, task force, and her local cancer research center as a start.