Working with faith communities to promote nutrition and wellness

Shola Oladipo is a registered dietitian and Chief Executive of Food for Purpose, a community interest company that works with Black and Minority Ethnic faith groups to help improve nutrition knowledge and promote healthier diets and lifestyles.

Chronic illnesses related to poor diet, including type 2 diabetes and hypertension, are particularly prevalent amongst the black African-Caribbean community, so Food for Purpose has been running roadshows in South East London for faith leaders as a means to spread healthy eating messages to them and their congregations.

South East London has the highest concentration of black churches in Europe, and faith plays a large part in many of these communities, so this is a particularly appropriate group to target. 

Shola combines her experience working in community dietetic services in the NHS focusing on diabetes and obesity, and as a pastor in a local church to communicate in the most effective way with these influential community leaders. She is supported by the Food for Purpose team of specialists and support workers.

Over the course of 12 months, over 50 different faith leaders have received health checks, information and some have had training, and each in turn have taken this message back to congregations of between 50 and 200 people.

Apart from diet, the Food for Purpose team focus on promoting increased activity levels as part of their programme known as the Healthy Church Initiative. A number of the churches have since gone so far as to become “SugarSmart” accredited, and initial feedback from some families has shown a significant change in their diet. 

The overall ethos is to make the church a healthier environment, where key health promotion messages are an integral part of faith.