Eating From the Church's Plate

Diffusion of Health Conscious Activities Amongst Black Church-goers



Black people the world over are known for many things - being health-conscience is not one of them. In fact, stereotypical media portrayals of African-Americans tend to include BBQ cookouts, warm Sunday dinners complete with smothered-something, and the fried chicken. It is true that many Black gatherings are centered around food, but that is also true of many cultures. What is not readily portrayed in the media is the lack of access to healthy foods many Black communities face or how the ratio of fast food restaurants is greater in the inner city compared to suburbia due to federal programs of the 1960s (Ju, 2017). I would like to propose an innovation that moves all members of the African diaspora to a plant-based, health conscious lifestyle. I believe this innovation will take root by using principles of the Social Cognitive Theory, and then begin to spread via the Social Network Theory.

Effecting the change of the global Black community will require the individual to shift his or view point of food and health. One will have to develop self-efficacy, or a belief that they can make the change and reap the benefits. This change will have to be brought about through community, social and environmental effort. The two largest vegetarian groups globally are Seventh-day Adventists and Indians - with an estimated 40% and 23% of their religious adherent population respectively. Although Christianity and Hinduism vary greatly, it is the follower’s belief in the tenants of their religion that (initially) impacted their choice to be vegetarian. I use the term “initially” because people may now choose to follow the dietary standards based on tradition or cultural norm. Both of those reasons, I believe, are strong enough to keep Blacks plant-based once they begin the change and spread it to those around them.

An innovative idea first moves along to early adopters and then outward to the early majority, the late majority and rests with the laggards. Currently, the fastest growing group of American vegans is Black Individuals who don't necessarily identify as religious. By appealing to the black Christians in the population, They can be influenced to change their lifestyle and diet behaviors as modeled by the Adventist and Indian Hindus. This process includes coupling scientific education, as in the case for Adventist , and religious duty as the case for Hindus. Ellen G. White, John Harvey Kellogg, and other Adventist Health Pioneers have already designed successful programs to catch the attention of the general public and turn them towards a healthier lifestyle. So I will not delve into the details on how to program will be presented, but more on how to influence individuals to accept it.

Currently, plant-based Blacks (religious and non-religious) could be considered innovators and early adopters. They are some of the biggest "evangelists" of the lifestyle. Through social network groups like BVS (Black Vegan Social), Black Urban Gardening Society, Black Girls Eat Vegan, etc. they share performance attainments, use verbal persuasion to try to influence their non-vegan counterparts to have a vicarious learning experience through them. “Personal experience provides the most influential source of efficacy information” especially when there is a perceived similarity between the model and self (Yildirim, 2011). I believe the trend of social media will encourage many people to become plant based, but in order to build a large early majority a concerted effort has to be put in place.

This effort must focus on implementing educational programs in Black churches throughout the nation. Individuals will have to be equipped/ trained in order to implement these programs. It has been shown that the black church is still very influential in the community. Large numbers of blacks can be reached at church on Saturdays and Sundays. That's we will create an intervention that deals with the external environmental factors of black Christian. According to SCT, changing a behavior is a function of the social/physical environment surrounding individuals. Education in the church environment will help increase parishioner's behavioral capability or the level of knowledge and skill they need in relation to transitioning to a plant-based diet (Edberg, 2015).

Letting go of the comfort foods and traditional "Black American foods" will have cultural impact on many people. The support system the church provides will help deal with the emotional coping that individuals will have to go through. Expectations and expectancies will be met with positive support within the church. For instance, knowing that one's peer group (50-something year old Baptist women) is also going on the journey with them - from essentially one way of life to another - helps eliminate the expectation that one will be excluded from the group. Being privy to other parishioner's medical markers (as they choose to share or give "testimonies" about them) will help those in the group see that the expected outcome of the change will be good or rewarded. Of course the entire journey which includes winning over the late majority and analyzing the laggers will take many years.

Another large plant-based population is found in Israel. According to Ori Shavit, an international promoter of vegan culture, because “Israel is such a relatively small country, trends and information move very quickly, particularly with the help of social media. ‘When a new trend starts, it catches like fire. Israelis are very direct and bold...’” (Berger, 2018). Ms. Shavit went on to explain that veganism was a trend that spread quickly and continued to grow with the Israeli population because of the social dynamics. The social network she described is similar to that of Black populations throughout the world; when they are disconnected from the larger group as a whole, the smaller group tends to bind together tighter. Smaller groups - for example a local church congregation, a sorority, an expat group in Korea, still feels a sense of pride and self by vicarious connection to the larger group - Blacks back “home.” By these different, yet interconnected means (religion and social networks) I hope that the new way of viewing Black heath catches on and spreads like wildfire.



References

Berger, Sharon. (2018). Why Israel Is The World’s Vegan Capital. Forward. Retrieved from: https://forward.com/scribe/403637/why-israel-is-the-worlds-vegan-capital/Edberg, Mark. (2015). On health and behavior - An Introduction. Essentials of Health Behavior Social and Behavioral Theory in Public Health. (2nd ed). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning, LLC.

Fan, J., Fraser, G., Jaceldo-Siegl, K., Martins, M., Mashchack, A., Orlich, M., A. (2017). New Approach to Assess Lifetime Dietary Patterns Finds Lower Consumption of Animal Foods with Aging in a Longitudinal Analysis of a Health-Oriented Adventist Population. Nutrients, 9(10) 1118. doi:10.3390/nu9101118

Jou, Chin. (2017). Supersizing Urban America: How Inner Cities Got Fast Food With Government Help. University of Chicago Press, 248 pp.

Yildirim, C. & Guner, E. (Producers). 2011. Self Efficacy: Its Role and Sources(italic) [Youtube Video]. Available from http://youtu.be/wrzzbaomLmc.


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