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Helping the faithful find an approach to healthy eating

ABSOLUTELY DELIGHTED: Shola Olapido and her Food For Purpose organisation have been recognised for their work in improving health

THIS HAS been a great year for Shola Olapido. Earlier this year, the dietician, wife and mother of four was given a cheque for £30,000 after being one of two winners of the Cinnamon Lab Project competition.

More recently, Shola has also won an award for Best Black, Asian And Minority Ethnic Project at the Christian Funders’ Forum Awards.

As you can imagine, Shola is proud of her latest achievement, saying: “I was absolutely delighted! This award was in recognition of our award-winning health programme, the Healthy Church Initiative (HCI).”

Food and its impact on the black community’s health is an issue close to Shola’s heart.

In 2016 she founded Food For Purpose, an organisation which works closely with the black community to provide education about healthy eating.

She explained: “I have been a dietician for 23 years and noted how many BAME patients resorted to faith as their main ‘treatment’ for illness. Being a Christian leader I understand this.

“However, many Christians were taking this to an extreme where they attributed their obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease to the devil or demonic oppression.

“The need to be responsible and work on diet and exercise were being overlooked and often, many down patients were even advised to stop their medications. At Food For Purpose we support a ‘faith and works’ approach to health and we are advocates of the church being part of the solution to health.

“We work with black leaders who are key influencers and encourage them to incorporate health into their objectives and to join forces with local councils and public health in the treatment and prevention of ill health.”

Shola educates from a place of understanding. When she married her husband – the pastor Tim Olapido – 30 years ago, she was a slim young woman, but following the birth of her eldest child a few years later, her weight ballooned to 24 stone.

Shola went to her GP for advice, but left discouraged by his blasé approach. She then decided to take her health into her own hands by joining a slimming club, signing up to a sports centre and exercising.

She also pursued further study at North London Polytechnic (now London Metropolitan University) and after four years graduated as a dietician – not to mention 10 stone lighter.

Shola has kept off her weight by applying the spiritual principal of renewing her mind, and being committed to being healthy and fit for the sake of her faith.

“The Bible says ‘go ye therefore...’ there is no going if we don’t care for our bodies. We can be super-spiritual but the ‘house’ the spirit lives in is our body. We must take care of the body... it’s part of our ‘reasonable service’ to God.

“I am in charge of food in my life. I take authority because I have a purpose to fulfil.”

Following the success of 2018, Shola is excited about what the next few years hold for Food For Purpose.

“We are working on perfecting the six-week HCI model, for roll-out in 2019-2020. We are looking for medium-sized churches to partake, free of charge. We are also developing an HCI for children’s Sunday schools to be piloted in Southwark.”

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