MAGNOLIA — The Rev. Jimmy Melvin is making better choices when it comes to his health. One decision he made with his wife, the Rev. Janet Melvin, was to cut back on soda. After purchasing a case of the fizzy drink, it took them about a month to drink them. For the couple, it’s an improvement.
Thanks to the “Faithful Families Eating Smart and Moving More” program, a lot of people in his congregation at Mt. Zion AME Zion Church are making better decisions. The initiative is from the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), as way to educate churches on health. Lethia Lee, an EFNEP agent, led nine session with members of the church. After a Wednesday morning session, they earned certificates for 22 hours of participation in the program associated with North Carolina Cooperative Extension.
“Everybody wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die,” Lee said while talking about avoiding foods that can lead to an early death.
During the the program some of the lessons involved many lessons such as cutting back on sugar and seasoning, throwing away expired food and developing a mindset towards positive changes.
“All of these challenges will turn into positives,” Lee said.
The church located in the Magnolia area is the second church in Sampson County to start one. The first was Cedar Point Disciples Church of Newton Grove. During the lessons, scripture from the Bible was used to relate to the importance of nutrition. Melvin believes that churches can have spiritual influences outside their walls.
“We believe this could be something that causes a paradigm shift in the cautiousness of our church,” Melvin said.
Now, many members of the church are thinking twice before eating things loaded with salt or sugar. Some of them were Ambree Spearman and James Womack.
“It was a great experience,” Spearman said.
“We have learned a lot from this program and we changed a lot of our eating habits,” Womack said. “I like sodas and teas, but I cut down on that.”
Like Melvin, he’s drinking more water now. Womack also made a decision to bake as an alternative to frying. Sometimes, he grills as another option.
“I love to eat and I used to eat more than one helping,” Womack said. “Now I just go with one.”
After a visit to the doctor, Ida Skipwith learned that she was a borderline diabetic. From there, she began eating healthy and watching her salt intake.
“Over the years, I learned to eat my food with very little seasoning on it,” Skipwith said about controlling her blood pressure. “Still through the program, I learned a lot about not eating a lot of food with sugar in it.”
Skipwith exercises day-to-day and doesn’t let being 82 stop her. She tries to exercise for at least 15 minutes in the morning and afternoon.
Travis Greer, regional worksite/faith coordinator for the Robeson County Health Department, assisted with the process. Greer is the regional coordinator for the ODHDSP (Obesity, Diabetes, Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention) grant. During his presentation, Greer presented ideas to improve the health of members while using St. Matthews Metropolitan AME Zion Church in Maxton as an example. Some of their work included blood pressure checks, a session on diabetes, cooking demonstrations and a mental health and spa class. He also mentioned that the church in Maxton proclaimed to only serve water at meals. Lee and Greer stressed the importance of providing options for members when it comes to eating.
“You have to keep it visible where they can see it,” Lee said about offering better choices such as water. “And then, they don’t have to ask for it.”
Through grant funding, some of the possibilities may include a community garden or a walking trail around the church.
Melvin is looking forward to continuing to work with program officials in the future.
“I’m excited to have this opportunity to host it and for the impact, it’s had on our community,” Melvin said.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.