In Ovarian Cancer Treatment, a woman in an urban area searches for healthy food alternatives linked to a local ministry through a cooking class.
Now Vernelia McKnight is not only singing praises of the ministry called A Table in the Wilderness, she is helping teach some of the organization’s classes.
“To be honest, I feel like it was a godsend to me,” McKnight said of the nonprofit. “Anytime, they have something, I want people to know about it.”
A Table in the Wilderness, with McKnight, will kick off the new year by expanding its efforts to help Oklahomans eat healthy. This year, the new vegan food pantry, one of the ministry’s biggest projects, will bear fruit. Laurel Maulden, CEO and president of the organization, said the department is partnering with Feed the Children to help stock the store.
The organization was started several years ago by her father, Lamar Mauldin. The father and daughter duo initially focused their programming on eastern Oklahoma County, which includes northeastern Oklahoma City. Northeast Oklahoma City, until the opening of the new Homeland store in 2020, was considered a food desert due to the lack of grocery stores and healthy food options.
The Choctaws said their goal is to promote healthy eating as it helps prevent or mitigate the impact of diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
They said they base their teachings on nutrition and science guidelines, but their nonprofit also has a scriptural foundation.
The name of the ministry comes from Psalm 78 and the mestizo are convinced that the “manna from heaven” that the Lord gave to the Israelites was good and nutritious food. The two are members of Seventh-day Adventists, a religious group whose promotion of healthy eating habits helps support the mission of Maulidin.
“We believe our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit,” Laurel Mauldin said.
Other projects for 2021 include more Ministry chapters for “Diabetes.” The first such semester of the new year will take place approximately on January 13. A class titled “Burning Cravings, Weight Gain, Blood Train” will also be presented around that day. The final class, a partnership with Natural Grocers, will focus on teaching participants how nutrient-rich meals support a healthy metabolism. They will also learn about nutritional supplements that support healthy blood sugar levels and control appetite.
Meanwhile, A Table in the Wilderness has purchased a new pickup truck through money donated by individuals and organizations passionate about the ministry’s health-conscious cause. Lamar Mauldin said they got the car in the summer of 2020 and wrapped it in a graphic design promoting their health message. Question: “Can God arrange a table in the wilderness?” Written on the truck, the vehicle’s license plate gives the answer: “He can.”
“This was our dashboard,” Lamar Mauldin said with a laugh.
In 2021, the organization also spread the word about the importance of healthy eating habits by participating in various community activities. Members set up a booth during daily community activities at the new Homeland grocery store in northeastern Oklahoma City, handing out goodies, cookbooks, children’s cooking utensils, and DVDs for free.
The organization also set up free dairy-free cookies and distributed milk with coconut milk supplied through their partnership with Feed the Children. They have taken their message on mobile with “ice cream and social education” at local grocery stores and several churches such as Nichols Hills United Methodist Church and Fifth Street Baptist Church.
The ministry also set up the third vegetarian Thanksgiving meal, which included “ToFurky” made with plant-based proteins and no meat, among other vegetarian dishes. They provided virtual child chef lessons that encouraged parents to try healthy recipes with their children as they were guided by a video chef.
Mauldin said they plan to continue working to get more healthy food options in Oklahoma.
In 2022, they will continue to work with Natural Grocers for many of their classes and hope to connect with other grocery stores as well.
The duo said they are in touch with a Homeland representative in hopes of acquiring the Northeast Oklahoma City grocery chain store to offer more vegetarian and vegan options.
Laurel said that even if healthy food options become more prevalent, she expects there will still be a need for more education about the benefits of exploring those food options on a regular basis.
A table in the wild will be there to assist in these education efforts.
“Anyone who decides to eat right can follow this way of living,” said Lamar Mauldin.
A table is set in Wilderness’s virtual class “New Year, New You, Diabetes 2022” from 6-7:30 p.m. Jan. 13. Another hypothetical class, “Curvings, Weight Gain, and a Hypoglycemic Roller Coaster” will be from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Jan. 13. For more information or to respond to the call for classes and for more information about A Table in the Wilderness, go to https://www.atableinthewilderness.org/ or the group’s Facebook page.