- Faith & Family
In times of trouble, whether it was a community facing issues of social justice, civil rights, high crime rates, homelessness and now even disproportionate rates of HIV/AIDS, people have expected the local church to lead the charge to aid the community.
Now with a growing obesity problem in the U.S. — about one-third of adults are considered obese — churches are being asked to lead the fight once again. In this case, experts are volunteering their services to help churches educate their congregations about healthy eating and fitness.
Earlier this year, Mericia Appolon, the founder of Vital 8: Health and Wellness Services, launched the “Healthy Churches of South Florida” campaign. A certified lifestyle and health consultant, Appolon, 34, has been providing lectures on healthy eating and fitness to local businesses and community institutions for the past two years. However, she says she was disturbed by what she found when she visited local churches.
“One of the things that I noticed is that there are so many people on the sick and shut in lists,” she said.
Noting that Blacks tend to suffer from diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity at higher levels than the general public, Appolon believes their cures lie in simple lifestyle changes. But, “so many people are not educated about nutrition.” She has developed the Creating Healthier Churches of South Florida campaign that includes a 30-day program where a church educates its congregation about living a healthier lifestyle. Members then keep a record of the changes they have made to reach their goals. During lectures she advises people to eliminate refined sugars from their diet, including juice cocktails and sodas; reduce or eliminate pork; drink more water and get more exercise.
“A lot of people that were part of the lecture said they were very appreciative of her knowledge,” said Danndre Clerveaux, a member of Northside Seventh Day Adventist Church.
Clerveaux, who works as a nurse, believes that churches are on the right course.
“[The faith community] is supposed to be a servant of the community,” she said. “I think the church will play a pivotal role in helping the community learn how to be healthy.”
By Kaila Heard