Barbara Hagele, member of the Middletown, Ky., Church, was looking for a way to reach her community. Hagele wanted to offer a unique service — something that would benefit attendees and help her church stand out.
“We are in the shadow of a mega church, just a few blocks from us,” Hagele said. “So, we were thinking, how do we compete with that kind of influence? We realized that something special the Seventh-day Adventist Church has is our health message. Rather than trying to duplicate anything that a mega church is doing, the [health message] was our ace in the hole.”
In 2018, the Middletown Church offered its first annual Vegetarian Taste Fest — a festival where community members came to try plant-based dishes. Those interested could get a cookbook with the recipes of the food they had tried, as well as sign up for additional plant-based cooking classes.
Since then, Hagele and her team have been teaching the cooking class once a month. They demonstrate three to six different plant-based dishes per session, depending on how complex the meal is. Yvonne Mickens, who also helps instruct the class, says they try to make conventional comfort foods: casseroles, sandwiches fillings, salads, desserts, and more.
“We also pick themes for each class, which is based on the season,” Mickens said. “We’ve done Thanksgiving and Christmas dishes, summer foods, and even back-to-school meals for those who have children.”
Before COVID-19 hit in 2020, Mickens says they had a steady attendance of 30 to 40 individuals, most of who were not church members. With the pandemic, the team continued to live stream classes and email recipes. According to Hagele, this allowed them to reach audiences in Canada, Great Britain, and Australia.
Though attendance has dropped slightly this year, Hagele is still excited to offer this service to the community.
“I think these [cooking classes] have shown our community that we really care about them and their health,” Hagele said. “We have some of the same people coming back every month, and we’ve just been so blessed to be able to interact with them and make new friends.”
Kentucky-Tennessee | August 2022