by Susan Ellis
On Friday at noon, Dr. Michael O. Minor will give a free and open to the public talk "Faith-based Initiatives to Promote Healthy Eating" at the Urban Child Institute.
Minor, an undershepherd at Oak Hill Baptist Church in Hernando, MS, is famously known as "the pastor who banned fried chicken at this church."
But as Minor notes, this sobriquet came about by accident.
Two years ago, Minor was invited to attend First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move event in North Mississippi.
At the time, Minor was about 8 years into his campaign to get the church's congregation of 100 or so to live a healthy lifestyle. His approach, he says, was "to back my way in."
He enlisted members of the National United Church Usher Organization to talk up healthy eating. Tips were included church bulletins. Bible studies and sermons would include lessons that revolved around health issues.
Banning fried chicken outright would have been too overt a move. Instead, he limited the amount of fried foods served at church functions.
"Some churches got rid of wine because of alcoholics," Minor says. "It's the same with food. There are food-aholics. I wanted to show that healthy food could taste good as well."
But on that day, during that visit by Michelle Obama, a soundbite about Minor changed limited to banned. And since the First Lady made note of it, Minor then banned fried chicken.
"Fried chicken hypnotizes people," he says.
Minor says that he's noticed people taking two or three pieces of chicken and then only eating one piece and tossing away the rest. He stresses to the congregation that baking or grilling a chicken breast is both better for you and cheaper as well.
These days a typical church meal at Oak Hill is baked chicken, green beans, whole wheat rolls, and corn. To drink, there's water or Crystal Light. There's no soda or tea, or anything with caffeine.
Minor's efforts have garnered him national attention. He's been featured on NPR, PBS' News Hour with Jim Leher, and The New York Times.
He's also been able to spread his message to a broader audience through his role as the national director for health and human services of the National Baptist Convention.
Interestingly, Minor says that the Memphis community is too divided for his message to ever gain momentum here.
Of Memphis, Minor says, "Everybody loves the spirit of controversy. It's not worth the time and energy."