Posted by Alison Kaufman

Gloria White-HammondIt's impossible to overstate the power of a talk by Rev. Gloria White-Hammond, co-pastor, Bethel AME. She is so profound, so thoughtful, and so utterly charismatic, that hearing her leaves an indelible mark. When she talks about the public health crises facing us today and the ability for each of us to make a difference, we leave feeling transformed and empowered. As she said, "It's in our hands."

Reverend White-Hammond was the keynote speaker for "Bringing it Home: A Public Health Conference," sponsored by the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO) and Health Care for All.

I was one of three panelists for the session entitled, "Healthy Food Access," which discussed how congregations can improve health through access to local and nutritional food for congregants and communities. The thirty participants were lively and engaged. What's really interesting to me, is that JF&CS is providing more nutritional food—whole grains, fresh produce—than ever before, and the participants were very excited to hear about this and find out more. Recipients of JF&CS Family Table are extremely pleased with the changes.

Working in this area is so much more than just getting and distributing food. Attendees talked about the ways in which it builds community, whether it's a congregational committee getting to know local farmers or Family Table volunteers getting to know each other and the people to whom they deliver food. In the world today, with its fragmentation and stressors, building community is so important.

The interest of the participants seemed to be personal as well as professional and organizational. One woman asked me, "When we have meetings, should we be serving pie, or should we be providing something healthier?" Can't we all relate to this question?

The conference was a day to celebrate, learn about, and support GBIO member congregations' public health initiatives. To this end, there were engaging speakers who are leaders in the public health field, all of whom challenged us to become actively involved in the struggle for better health for all. Following the speakers, a variety of workshops enabled attendees to more intimately explore some of the issues raised.

Alison BooksAlison Kaufman is the Director of Hunger & Nutrition at JF&CS. As a licensed, registered dietitian helping the community, she has a particular passion for making the choice to eat healthy foods easier for all.