IPHN 2021 Overview

Looking back at 2021 ...

2021 was an eventful year for IPHN, as we expanded our activities and began the process of formal non-profit incorporation. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic brought numerous challenges organizationally and personally, as it did for all.

We are pleased to share highlights of our work with you here, as well as opportunities for ongoing engagement.

We’re looking forward to a healthier 2022, and hope to work together to ensure healthier communities for all!

In this Email:

  1. The Sweet Truth Campaign
  2. Faith + Food Coalition and the U.N. Food Systems Summit
  3. COVID Vaccination
  4. Mindful Eating for the Beloved Community
  5. Word of Life Named AHA Fan Favorite
  6. Survey for Faith Leaders
  7. IPHN Convener Updates
  8. A Message from the IPHN Board

The Sweet Truth Campaign

IPHN worked with the Center for Science in the Public Interest to successfully pass NYC Council bill INT 1326-b - the Sweet Truth Act - the first bill in the U.S. to require warning labels for high levels of added sugars in NYC chain restaurants. While the legislative process resulted in a final bill that was less comprehensive than initially planned (it includes prepackaged items, but does not include fountain drinks), it was an important first step. There will be opportunities to amend the bill to expand the scope of the measure to include fountain drinks in upcoming sessions.

The Hunter College New York City Food Policy Center has a comprehensive page devoted to the Sweet Truth Act, including a wealth of additional resources - available here.

Moving forward: 

If you or your organization are interested in continuing work on the Sweet Truth campaign, or other policy efforts addressing added sugars, please contact Bob at [email protected].

Staff and community members from Korean Community Services of Metro NY at Sweet Truth rally at NY City Hall Park on 10/28/21

 Gambian Youth Organization members (including Salim Drammeh, President, 2nd from left) with IPHN Convener Bob Pezzolesi at Sweet Truth Rally

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Faith + Food Coalition and the U.N. Food Systems Summit

IPHN participated in the U.N. Food Systems Summit through the Faith + Food Coalition (FFC). IPHN Convener Kelly Moltzen and IPHN Board Member Dr. Marium Husain (in her role as the Vice President of the Islamic Medical Association of North America) were actively involved as FFC steering committee members

The FFC hosted five dialogues to contribute to the Summit; created dialogues for the World Health Organization’s Global Week of Action and the Parliament of the World’s Religions; and presented a comprehensive Interfaith Statement to Martin Frick, deputy to the Special Envoy for the Summit, along with other UN representatives.

Steve Chiu of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation and Dr. Marium Husain reading the Interfaith Statement at the UN Food Systems Summit

FFC webinar with Steering Commitee members and Stineke Oenema, Executive Secretary at UN Nutrition


You can learn more about the findings and outcomes from the FFC dialogues by reading the report, Sustainable, Equitable, Resilient: An Ethical Approach to Global Food Systems. All of the information from the five dialogues can be found at the FFC website, including recordings of the dialogues

Moving forward:  

The FFC welcomes your ideas and feedback on how to faithfully improve global food systems, within and outside of the UN system. There are also plans underway for a town hall dialogue in early 2022 to carry our momentum forward. 

To submit your ideas and feedback, and to receive updates on future events and activities, please reach out to Kelly at [email protected]

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COVID Vaccination

Faith communities have played an important role in limiting the harm of the COVID global pandemic, through promotion of prevention and control strategies; promotion and administration of COVID vaccination; and meeting the food, housing, and other basic needs of our neighbors.

For our part, IPHN enjoyed a fruitful working relationship with the NY Vaccine Literacy Campaign (NYVLC) at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, highlighted by the well-received collaborative webinar - Herd Immunity & the Beloved Community. IPHN Convener Bob Pezzolesi continues to serve on the NYVLC Community Engagement Advisory Council.

Additionally, IPHN played a key role in the South Bronx Vaccine Acceptance Project. That project - based at Word of Life International and funded by the Robin Hood Foundation - helped vaccinate hundreds of Bronx residents and delivered pro-vaccination messaging to thousands more. Catholic Charities and the Muslim Community Network were among the faith community partners that joined in this crucial work.

COVID vaccination pop-up clinic at Masjid Nur Al-Islam in the Bronx on 7/30/21

Moving forward:  

Although IPHN is not currently involved in a COVID vaccination project, we continue to support the vital work of the NYVLC. We encourage you to visit their resource- and data-rich website at https://vaccineliteracycampaign.org/.

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Mindful Eating for the Beloved Community

IPHN administered, collaboratively developed, and instructed for the first cohort of the Mindful Eating for the Beloved Community (MEBC) program in the spring of 2021. Developed in partnership with BCA Global and funded by Bronx Health REACH and the New York Community Trust, the innovative 9-session virtual program engaged participants in learning and practices about food at the individual (mindful eating, nutrition, and healthy cooking) and community (family and faith traditions, food systems and food policies) levels.

The MEBC curriculum was based on the book of the same name, curated by Chef Alex Askew, who also provided healthy cooking demonstrations. Sara Wolcott of Sequoia Samanvaya contributed to course development and served as an instructor, and interfaith facilitator. The project was also assisted by NYU Global Health intern Silvia Saberin.

MEBC program Zoom session in spring 2021

The project received positive feedback from participants, including this thoughtful comment: 

“I do believe from a faith perspective that health is a divine right. Knowing that it’s a divine right and then finding myself not experiencing it, that was a dissonance between what I knew was true and what I was living. But it was my faith that allowed me to bridge those two things.  And so that’s what I bring when I’m in this space. I love the idea that Alex and the group are incorporating that into healthy living and changing behavior because sometimes it really does feel like you need something supernatural, outside yourself, to change.”

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Word of Life Named AHA Fan Favorite

Building on the Food Security Coalition that grew out of its 2020 Root Causes webinar series, Word of Life International envisioned a South Bronx Community Food Chain Project in 2021. With the support of IPHN, they applied for the American Heart Association Faith-Based Business Accelerator; under the leadership of Rev. John Udo-Okon, Word of Life was named a Fan Favorite and awarded a $5,000 prize.

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Survey for Faith Leaders

Can an evidence-based framework based in living systems constructs help congregational leaders accurately see the dynamics around and between them? We want to find out! If you are an ordained or lay leader in your congregation, you can help! Take the survey here: https://loyola.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_9WtyBRJUJ15AAKi


To test whether concepts rooted in a family systems-based assessment accurately map to congregational life, Barbara Laymon, PHD and Jake Morrill, MDiv, faculty at the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family, along with Joseph Stewart-Sicking, faculty at Loyola University, MD, have developed a questionnaire approved for research purposes. This is where you come in: please take this nine-minute survey. Results will be used to explore a framework for congregational functioning, useful for leaders facing the challenging years ahead. To assure the anonymity of respondents and congregations, no identifying information will be collected in the survey process. 

Please respond to this survey by the end of day on Monday, 1/31.

If you're interested in learning more about the research findings, email [email protected] to be added to the invitation list to a presentation next spring. Again, to take the survey, go to https://loyola.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_9WtyBRJUJ15AAKi 

Questions? Contact Barbara Laymon at [email protected]

Many thanks!

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IPHN Convener Updates

Kelly Moltzen

In September 2021, Kelly moved to Washington, D.C. to be the Christian fellow with Abrahamic House, living alongside a Jewish and Muslim fellow and organizing events promoting interfaith dialogue and social change. In November, she organized An Opportune Moment for Decolonization which discussed the Doctrine of Discovery, indigenous spirituality and how to support Native American food sovereignty. In December, she organized a Muslim-Christian Dialogue on the Birth and Teachings of Jesus (Access Passcode: H83KZ#%@ ). Abrahamic House has many exciting events (virtual, in-person, and hybrid) planned for 2022!  If you would like to receive updates on Abrahamic House events, please register for the newsletter here

Abrahamic House 2021-2022 Fellows Abby Shulman, Kelly Moltzen and Haima Askari

Bob Pezzolesi

In spring 2021 Bob was accepted as a Full Candidate for the order of Home Missioner of the United Methodist Church. Home Missioners are laymen (serving alongside Deaconesses) who are called to be in a lifetime relationship in The United Methodist Church for engagement with a full-time vocation in ministries of love, justice, and service. Their mission is to alleviate suffering; eradicate causes of injustice and all that robs life of dignity and worth; facilitate the development of full human potential; and, share in building global community through the church universal.

Bob has been encouraged by the deep interest in public health and interfaith work among his Deaconess and Home Missioner peers, and in the rich heritage of UMC Deaconess service and social justice advocacy.

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A Message from the IPHN Board

In closing, we would like to formally introduce ourselves as the first Board Members of the Interfaith Public Health Network:

Stacey Carpenter, Chair of the Board
Rachel Berman, Secretary
Marium Husain, Treasurer
Rucha Kaur
Victoria Strang

We are thrilled and honored to be part of this journey, and we are grateful to Bob Pezzolesi and Kelly Moltzen for all of their hard work in getting us to this point.

We are a diverse group, in terms of our faiths, our vocations, and our experiences, with a unifying passion for bringing faith groups together to create a healthier and more just society.

In the midst of a formidable pandemic, which has revealed long-existing health disparities and social injustices, we remain optimistic and energized as we stand together. 

Hinneh mah tov umah na’im
Shevet achim gam yachad

How good and pleasant it is
For people to sit together in unity