This year, Boston-based nonprofit Oldways has expanded its Black History Month celebration from one week to the entire month of February. That means more time to spotlight the savory ﬂavors and naturally healthy features of African heritage cuisine. The month is headlined by Oldways’ popular A Taste of African Heritage (ATOAH) community cooking classes, which aim to address health disparities in African-American communities. The free or low-cost class series teaches participants to adopt healthy eating habits based on the traditional foods of the African diaspora. The video below provides an overview.
“Participating in A Taste of African Heritage programming is a meaningful and enjoyable way to honor Black History Month. It is a time to learn about and honor the foodways of African ancestors and for folks to reflect on their own unique family traditions. It is also a chance to slow down and savor a healthy home-cooked meal with loved ones,” says Johnisha Levi, Oldways’ African Heritage & Health program manager.
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Changing Lives Through the African Heritage Diet
By bringing the African Heritage Diet Pyramid to life, ATOAH is showing participants how to eat and cook healthfully, traditionally, and enjoyably through hands-on experience. Since 2012, more than 2,500 students have participated in a total of 250 ATOAH classes nationwide. The results:
- 62 of students have lost weight
- 30 have reduced blood pressure
- 53 have lost inches from their waist
The majority of students also report sustaining the positive lifestyle changes taught in the class, such as eating more plant-based foods and cooking at home.
Boston, Baltimore, Dallas, Philadelphia, and Sacramento are just a few of the cities hosting classes in February. Oldways’ new online directory has a full list.
Throughout Black History Month, Oldways challenges everyone to enjoy at least one dish that is inspired by the cuisines of African-American ancestors and the African Heritage Diet Pyramid. In addition to attending a local ATOAH class, there are numerous ways to get involved, such as:
- Venturing out to a new restaurant serving healthy, traditional food; Oldways’ newly up-to-date Dine-Around-Town guide lists African heritage restaurants across the country.
- Teaching others about the health and nutrition of the African heritage diet. Anyone can sign up to teach an ATOAH class!
- Preparing meals at home, whether it’s trying a brand new recipe or using simple food swaps to incorporate the flavors and benefits of traditional ingredients.
Oldways’ slogan is “Health Through Heritage,” and its goal for Black History Month is for people to experience how traditional diets not only improve health but also reconnect them to the foods of their heritage.