Ministry maintains focus on healthy eating habits

In the treatment of ovarian cancer, a woman in the metro area looking for healthy food alternatives partnered with a local ministry through a cooking class.

Now Vernelia McKnight doesn’t just sing the praises of the ministry called A Table in the Wilderness, she helps teach some of the organization’s classes.

“To be honest I think it was a godsend for me,” McKnight said of the association. “Whenever they have something, I want people to know it.”

A Table in the Wilderness, with McKnight on board, will kick off the New Year by stepping up its efforts to help Oklahoma residents eat healthier. This year, a new plant-based pantry, one of the ministry’s biggest projects, will emerge. Laurel Mauldin, chief executive and president of the organization, said the ministry has partnered with Feed the Children to help stock the pantry.

The organization was founded several years ago by Mauldin and his father, Lamar Mauldin. The father-daughter duo initially focused their programming on eastern Oklahoma County, which includes northeast Oklahoma City. Northeast Oklahoma City, until a new Homeland store opened in 2020, was considered a food desert due to the lack of grocery stores and healthy eating options.

The Choctaw duo said their goal is to promote healthy eating, as this helps prevent and / or lessen the impact of conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure.

They said they based their teachings on nutritional guidelines and science, but their nonprofit organization has a Biblical foundation as well.

The name of the ministry comes from Psalm 78, and the Mauldins are convinced that the “manna from heaven” that the Lord provided to the Israelites was good and nutritious food. Both are members of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, a faith group whose promotion of healthy eating habits helps fuel the Mauldin’s mission.

“We believe that our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit,” said Laurel Mauldin.

Volunteers unload a pallet of food products.  A Table in the Wilderness CEO and Chair of the Ministry Laurel Mauldin sits on a pallet of food that Feed The Children gave to the denominational pantry.  Friday December 3, 2021.

Other plans for 2021 include more of the ministry’s “diabetes defeated” courses. The first of these classes in the New Year will take place virtually on January 13. A course titled “Cravings, Weight Gain, Blood Sugar Rollercoaster” will also be offered virtually that day. This latest course, a partnership with Natural Grocers, will focus on teaching participants how nutrient-dense meals support a healthy metabolism. They will also learn which nutritional supplements promote healthy blood sugar levels and appetite control.

Meanwhile, A Table in the Wilderness has purchased a new van with funds donated by individuals and organizations passionate about the ministry’s health cause. Lamar Mauldin said he got the vehicle in the summer of 2020 and wrapped it in graphics promoting their healthy message. The question “Can God provide a table in the wilderness?” is engraved on the pickup truck, while the vehicle’s specialized license plate gives the answer, “It can.”

“This has been our driving display board,” said Lamar Mauldin with a laugh.

In 2021, the organization also raised awareness of the importance of healthy eating habits by participating in various community activities. Members had a booth during community day activities at the new Homeland grocery store in northeast Oklahoma City, handing out free treats, cookbooks, kids’ cook kits, and DVDs.

The organization also organized a free distribution of non-dairy cookies and milk with coconut milk provided through its partnership with Feed the Children. They took their message to mobile with “ice cream and education social events” at local grocery stores and at various churches including Nichols Hills United Methodist Church and Fifth Street Baptist Church.

Laurel Mauldin, CEO and President of A Table in the Wilderness, sits on a pallet of food that Feed The Children has donated to the ministry for its plant-based pantry.

The ministry also hosted the third Plant-Based Thanksgiving Community Meal, featuring “ToFurky,” made with plant-based and meat-free protein, along with other plant-based dishes. And they offered Kids Chef virtual classes that encouraged parents to try out healthy recipes with their kids while they were guided by a chef through a video.

The Mauldins said they plan to continue working towards healthier food options in Oklahoma.

In 2022, they will continue to work with Natural Grocers for several of their classes and they hope to get in touch with other grocery stores as well.

The duo said they reached out to a representative for Homeland in hopes the Northeast Oklahoma City grocery chain store has more plant-based and vegan options.

Laurel said that even as healthy food options become more prevalent, she predicts that there will always be a need for more education on the benefits of exploring these food options on a regular basis.

A table in the wilderness will be there to help with these educational efforts.

“Anyone who decides to eat well can follow this lifestyle,” said Lamar Mauldin.

To learn more

A table in the virtual Wilderness classroom “New year, new you, diabetes canceled 2022” is scheduled from 6 pm to 7:30 pm January 13. Another virtual class, “Cravings, Weight Gain, Blood Sugar Rollercoaster” will take place from 6:30 am to 7:30 pm January 13th. For more information or to RSVP for courses and for more information on A Table in the Wilderness go to https://www.atableinthewilderness.org/ or the the group’s Facebook page.

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