By Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams
Being in “good health” is not just a matter of the physical fitness of the body. It encompasses a holy trinity, if you will, of the mind, body, and spirit being in healthy and harmonious alignment. This places our faith leaders in the unique position of having a moral obligation to minister to the total health of their congregations, ensuring that while they are supporting the faithful in receiving nourishing food for the soul, they are helping congregants fuel their bodies and brains with a nutritious menu to live by, as well.
By modeling healthy behaviors while guiding their congregations in wellness and spirit, our faith leaders have the opportunity to restore hope for those struggling with their physical well-being. My own health seemed hopeless just two years ago when I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. I nearly lost my eyesight, and was thought to have permanent nerve damage. But I am a living witness to the transformative power of food, as I can now share that after deciding to switch to a whole-food, plant-based diet, my symptoms reversed in just three months. It taught me an important lesson: chronic disease is not hereditary, it’s dietary. Just ask my mother; she reversed her diabetes without taking any medicine.
Scripture reminds us our bodies are temples of God: when we honor our bodies, we honor Him. In my capacity as Brooklyn Borough President, I work daily to serve as an advocate for such initiatives as promoting vegan lifestyles, cutting the salt/curbing the sugar, and pushing for local, public schools to adopt Meatless Mondays menus — all in an effort to make our kids, communities, and planet healthier.
We all know the church repast after Sunday service is an important and cherished tradition, providing an opportunity for worshippers to fellowship together. Typically, however, the food is high in sodium, sugar, saturated fat, and trans-fat. And though lovingly prepared, it is causing us genuine harm.
The science is crystal clear on the power of a whole-food, plant-based diet for reversing chronic diseases. People who eat vegetarian or plant-based diets are at reduced risk of developing health conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and even certain forms of cancer. This science should now be tested and practiced in our church kitchens and at church-sponsored events whenever a menu is prepared. I am calling on our faith-based leaders to lead the charge.
My office has been proud to partner with faith-based institutions in the past to promote healthy lifestyles. Last year, our office joined with the Brooklyn Hospital group of Brooklyn clergy to announce the Clergy Healthy Lifestyle Challenge, a 12-week program that aimed to involve faith leaders in a healthy lifestyle program that provides tools to get healthier and, in turn, spread the word — and the guidelines they learn — to their communities.
One participant, Reverend Fred Lucas, was so inspired by our challenge he convened a health ministry to continue the conversation around a healthy lifestyle. Our office assisted him, providing funding to bring a dietician to speak to his ministry.
We’re not stopping there. In the fall, we will co-sponsor a plant-based summit at Christian Community Center in East New York, one of the largest churches in Brooklyn. The event will feature talks, panel discussions, and exhibitions focused on how adopting a plant-based lifestyle is good for your body, your soul, and the earth.
We must do all we can to help one another along on the way to good health. And the journey might be a marathon, rather than a sprint, but what’s important is that you get started.