How Cooking Classes Transformed a Family

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“I have been a diabetic since I was eight years old,” says Tifani, a South Atlanta resident and mom of four. “And a few months ago, my doctor took me off of my medication. I am diabetes free thanks to this cooking class.”

She is a participant in the Carver Market Cooking Classes in partnership with Georgia Food Oasis and Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation. Each week, classes meet to explore cooking fresh, healthy meals utilizing new vegetables and diverse herbs and spices. Tifani got involved after seeing a flyer for the classes. “A friend encouraged me,” she says. “I love to cook, and they thought I would enjoy it.”

The biggest takeaway for Tifani has been learning to cook unfamiliar vegetables in delicious ways. “I’d never eaten things like asparagus or brussel sprouts before I took this class. And even some vegetables I’d tried before, like zucchini, they taught me how to cook them in ways I like.” She says she’s moved almost completely away from canned vegetables in favor of fresh or frozen options.

One hope of the class in to encourage healthier eating habits for families. And Tifani admits she was nervous her kids wouldn’t like the new veggie-focused meals she was learning to cook. The teaching chef encouraged her to give it a try and promised the kids would learn to like the food. “That’s exactly what happened,” Tifani says. She came home from class and recreated a new food she’d learned - “Tuna Boats” - which includes tuna and cucumbers. She says her son wolfed down three and now always reminds her to pick up the ingredients at the grocery. It’s his go-to after school snack.

When her kids are hesitant, Tifani hosts home blind taste tests. She made vegetable soup and a meat-based soup and then blindfolded her children before tasting. Three of the four preferred the vegetable soup based on their taste buds alone when they couldn’t prejudge the veggie-filled soup.

She also loves the vegetable-packed quesadilla she learned to make in the class, which incorporates sauteed kale and spinach. “I can’t have dairy,” Tifani says, “so I make the quesadillas with cheese and vegetables for the kids and just vegetables for myself. But I rarely get to eat it because the kids come and take mine, too!” She is proud to share that her kids are eating way more vegetables than before.

Tifani also says she buys all her groceries at Carver Market. Before, her family took the bus to go grocery shopping, but she was amazed to learn that she could get fresh vegetables, coffee, and other groceries right across the street.

We are so excited to hear how Tiffany has been impacted by Carver Market and the cooking classes. We celebrate when we hear kids are trying new vegetables, a mom has been able to stop taking medication, and a family is eating healthier in the neighborhood.

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Atlanta: A City on the Verge

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"A staggeringly ambitious engine of urban revitalization." That’s how the New York Times described the Atlanta BeltLine, a twenty-two-mile loop around Atlanta’s downtown that is revitalizing abandoned railways into a series of parks connected by trails and streetcars. It’s planned to join forty-five Atlanta neighborhoods, including Historic South Atlanta where we live and work.

Mark Pendergrast grew up inside the city limits of Atlanta, in what he refers to as the “Buckhead bubble.” Now, he lives in Vermont. So when he decided to write a book exploring the Atlanta BeltLine, he had a unique vantagepoint as an “outsider insider.” Familiar with some sections of the city and completely unfamiliar with others, he set out to “get to know the city for the first time.”

He set out to visit many of the communities impacted by the BeltLine’s development, and he asked to stay with residents who could introduce him to the neighborhood. In South Atlanta, Pendergrast stayed with Katie and Jeff Delp, FCS’ Executive Director and Director of Economic Development respectively, and interviewed several South Atlanta residents. These overnight visits to neighborhoods gave him a fresh picture of Atlanta, allowing him to see different sides of the city than just where he grew up.

In City on the Verge: Atlanta and the Fight for America’s Urban Future, you’ll find Pendergast’s experience and perspectives on the city. “I am present in this book more than ever before,” he says. “It’s a very personal book for me.” But the book is also deeply researched. Pendergast allows the story of the BeltLine to unfold into topics affecting urban areas throughout the country: race, education, public health, transportation, business, philanthropy, urban planning, religion, politics, and community.

Pedergrast discovered FCS after he read Bob Lupton’s Toxic Charity, which he quotes in his book. He also tackles affordability issues in City on the Verge, which is an important aspect of BeltLine development that is being felt all over Atlanta. When asked what he hopes readers will take away from the book, Pendergrast says, “I hope when people read any of my books that they will see the world a different way. My books are a way of connecting with people to make an impact. And I hope they come away with a more nuanced view of the inequities in Atlanta.”

We are excited about City on the Verge, and we are equally thrilled to host author Mark Pendergrast for a book discussion on August 29th at 7:00 pm at Community Grounds . This event is free and open to the public, and we’d love to have you join us to talk about the realities and the hopes for Atlanta’s future. Please register for this event here.

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Voices

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by Bob Lupton

As a young person, I was serious about pleasing God. From the moment I responded to the invitation to go forward at a Billy Graham crusade when I was seven, I had a consistent desire to do what was right. My dad was a preacher, so I was in church a lot. From sermons, Sunday school lessons, and dinner table conversations I learned all about the things that made God happy, as well as what displeased Him. I learned, too, that God would forgive me when I misbehaved, if I was really sorry. 

By the time I was in my early teens, my naïve, little-boy faith was starting to mature. I was learning about larger doctrinal issues like predestination and free will. I was learning about the mystery of the Spirit and how God speaks personally to people. I was told about fasting and how it would help focus one’s attention on what the Spirit was saying. 

I had never fasted before. I had occasionally missed meals, but not for any spiritual reasons. But I was now fourteen and starting to consider more grown-up disciplines of the faith. I was learning to listen for the “still, small voice” of the Spirit.

As I pondered this teaching about fasting, a voice seemed to be urging me to do it. For three days, the voice seemed to say. Out of a sincere desire to hear and obey God, I privately committed to a three day fast. I didn’t tell anybody. I had read that Jesus said to do your fasting in secret. I’m sure my parents wondered why I didn’t come to the dinner table. They doubtless assumed it was a part of my spiritual journey and were supportive, but didn’t pry. 

The first day wasn’t bad. I did think a lot about eating, but I was able to restrain my hunger urges without much difficulty. By the second day, however, my adolescent appetite was beginning to consume much of my attention. But I was determined to be faithful – to win this battle over fleshly desires. Day three was Sunday, and I was terribly hungry. 

I walked to church and slipped into a back seat. As worship began and the congregation rose for the opening hymn, I was so weak I held onto the pew in front of me to steady myself. I could feel my resolve weakening. I needed a sandwich – bad! A spiritual battle raged within me. A tormenting voice kept saying, “I fasted for 40 days and you cannot last for three?” I struggled mightily to stay strong. I did not want to fail my Lord.    

Finally, by verse two of the third hymn, I caved. Fearing I might lose my soul, I nevertheless made my way out the front church door, headed home, and in ten minutes was voraciously consuming an egg and cheese sandwich. Strangely, as I gulped down the food in blatant violation of the commitment I had made to God, I experienced no sense of separation from God. Not then, not later. I felt neither condemned nor commended. I was just relieved that it was over. 

Had I sought the counsel of older, wiser saints, I would have known that not every voice one hears is from God. Some voices are not to be trusted, like those that pressure, impose guilt, or condemn. Other voices, I would learn from my own painful experience, will actually lead one astray.

So how was I to decipher the difference between the trustworthy and the misleading voices? I looked for a foolproof formula without success. In time, however, the Trustworthy Voice became more recognizable, like a lamb learning to recognize the shepherd’s voice. Not that I always heeded that Voice of course.  After all, I was a teenage boy. But at fourteen, I was beginning to understand that there is wisdom in the counsel of many.  

So what does this childhood episode have to do with urban ministry? Well, for one thing, it was a formative lesson about seeking the counsel of experienced saints when facing important decisions. At FCS, that means surrounding our leadership with a mature, trustworthy board of directors who embrace our mission and provide wise guidance. Their collective wisdom helps us avoid unnecessary pitfalls. 

But perhaps more importantly, this early experience in my faith journey acquainted me with the realization that life – even spiritual life, even with good counsel – is not free from risk. There are no failsafe formulas that guarantee success. No one can accurately predict what lies around the next corner. Anyone who claims to is suspect. Faith and risk are two sides of the same coin. The faith/risk journey beckons me to listen as best I can, make well informed decisions, then leap headlong into the unknown.                 

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