Imagine that…

What would Jesus eat?

with 8 comments

Imagine… Marshallese are considered very religious and are known to have a very set ideas about the do’s and don’ts of a Godly person. To be in “good” with most of the Church society, DON’Ts include: smoking, drinking and fooling around, as these habits do not edify the body which is a temple of the Holy Spirit.

Now, there is a new DO in Church circles. Do eat alot! When you have parties, don’t just have “cow and bao,” but lobster, shimp, sashimi, pork, etc. Also, don’t forget the potato salad, the cold-slaw salad, the fruit salad, along with traditional pumpkin, all piled on top of a heap of rice, with lukkor on the side.

We tend to be excessive when it comes to serving food at special occasions. It’s not just in church circles, but also in all areas of community life. Visitors at these occasions often report that
“they have never seen so much food!”

Anthropologists say this can traced back to the times of feast and famine in our ancestors atoll life. They learned to preserve foods and be without, and then in seasons of plenty, to eat well.

We once ate breadfruit, Pandanus, swamp taro, and arrowroot, which was called the famine food, but imported foods are the mainstay today.

Special occasions in the village life would call for celebration, and everyone would bring a basket and go home with a basket.

Unfortunately, now everyone goes home and eats just rice and something canned (jelele) for the rest of the month. Our children suffer the most from this rice obsession. While our bellies fill out with all the starch, our children’s bellies bloat with malnutrition.

Imagine…life without rice.

Even in the States, where healthier foods are available, the daily diet still centers around rice to the detriment of our health and future.

The dependence on rice which is pure carbohydrates, turning to gluclose (sugar), has cause much diabetes, heart disease, and death among our people. Why so much diabetes? Our lives are less active, we eat the wrong foods, and we our overweight.

According a nutritional study, 50% of Marshallese men over 18 y in the sample were overweight (29%) or obese (21%). We found similar rates of overweight in women (29%), and even higher rates of obesity (31%).

This is how bad it is. Today, if there is no rice, people will go hungry. Even if there was fruit on the trees, plenty of fish in the water, and store shelves are stocked with other foods, when there is no rice, people will consider it a famine.

So, I’d like to add one more DON’T to the list for Godly and Healthy Marshallese. The Church should add rice to its list of sinful things! Why not? Just like smoking and excessive drinking, eating a ton of rice is bad for you.

Along with Godly living, our pastors should preach healthy living for the body.

Save Yourself – Don’t Eat Rice!

Imagine that!

Written by Aenet Rowa

April 20th, 2005 at 7:46 am

Posted in General

8 Responses to 'What would Jesus eat?'

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  1. Yokwe all,

    How is this?

    The Marshall Islands have become an urban country, in terms of where people live.

    Do the folks on the outer atolls (who probably aren’t reading this) eat a better diet because of the periodic lack of imported foods? The traditional foods and introduced crops are healthy.

    How expensive are filling/staple foods besides rice on Majuro and Ebeye? Are locally caught fish and grown crops available, and at a price that people can afford.

    Can people living far from where they have land rights afford to fill their cupboard with anything besides (mostly) rice? In my SMALL nutrition study, I was surprised to find that most people do not have a garden near their home.

    Is this an issue of people abandoning the practice of growing food, or being too far from their land (on a different atoll.)

    In Samoa, families will live in the city, and men will go to the hills for a day or two to tend and harvest foods. They have similar land rights issues, but have a fertile mountain where the Marshallese have a lagoon. Maintaining a farm is easier as the ri-Samoa generally hop just a bus, and don’t need to sail off to another atoll.

    I think Aenet’s advice is sound. Is there a way to get the crops and fish to the buyers on Majuro and Ebeye? Sailing food from the outer atolls to the cities involves some expense. Can someone make a living doing this? There are logistical issues.

    Obviously some local foods are available. Are they declined for economic status or taste reasons?

    If the traditional and healthy foods are already widely available and affordable, and people are eating imported stuff anyway, then it is a bigger issue than loading a boat and getting the food to market.

    You can lead a person to tofu, but you can’t make them eat.


    David Huskins

    Majuro, Marshall Islands, Images and Resources:

    Geographic and cultural images of Samoa:

    Census maps of Micronesians living in the U.S.:

    Survey of Marshallese Nutrition Choices:


    20 Apr 05 at 10:51 am

  2. You will hear me harp on personal responsibility all the time. It is a bit hypocritical for me since I am very over weight myself which is a demon that I fight all the time but I take full personal responsibility for it. I do teach my children proper eating habits and enforce it with them.

    I do not think rice should be be added to a list of sinful things I think we should instead teach moderation and personal responsibility. Eating too much of most anything is bad for you, we need to instead teach the food pyramid eating in moderation. If we add rice to the list of sinful things where will it end? Potatoes, bread and other carbohydrates will just replace it. Pretty soon chocolate, and cake will be on the list too. You can eat just about anything as long as it is done in moderation.

    What we need to teach is a healthy lifestyle.

    As far as drinking it does not say in the bible that drinking alcohol is a sin it does say not to get drunk Ephesians 5:18. Jesus himself was said to have drank alcohol. John 2:1-11; Matthew 26:29. In Timothy 5:23 Paul instructed Timothy to drink a little wine. So drinking alcohol per say is not a sin it is the over drinking of alcohol that is. Too much of anything is gluttony so we need to teach moderation. Many scientific research does say a little red wine in moderation is good for you.

    As far as smoking I hate smoking. Smoking is what led to the early death of my father so this topic is very near and dear to me. Now is smoking a sin? I would day yes because it is addicting due to nicotine. No where in the bible does it say smoking is a sin because tobacco did not exist in the time of the bibles writings. But there are scriptures against anything that has a mastery over you and I believe smoking and alcoholic drunkenness fall into this realm. Corinthians 6:12; 2 Peter 2:19. There are many other scriptures that encourage you not to drink but I do not think drinking a glass of wine is a sin.

    I am a strong believer in teaching doctrine and not discipline. I will raise my kids with the belief that drinking is bad for you and to heavily discourage it but I would not go as far as saying a glass of wine here and there with a meal is sin.

    We really need to take personal responsibility for our own actions. You can best protect your children from the dangers of the world by never letting them leave the house but is this the best thing for them? I would like to think teaching them what is right and wrong to the best of your abilities is all you can do and hope they take that to heart.


    20 Apr 05 at 10:54 am

  3. David,

    Great to see your comments on this board, I must say I have learned as much from your studies of Marshallese history as I learned culture and respect from my grandfather Adrineb.

    You are correct the population back home is much more urbanized than ever before. I spent 2 weeks this last summer in Majuro and was so happy to be home but was surprised how much more we have become dependent on store bought food. I visited many people and every single family I ate with had store bought food including fish. I am not sure if this is indicative of all families but it was what I experienced.

    For breakfast we usually ate store bought donuts. Lunch and dinner were usually the same, rice with some kind of meat topping (spam, corned beef, canned tuna, chicken, beef or fish)

    I definitely think one reason rice is so popular is that it is relatively cheap, ramen noodles could be thrown into the same category as well.

    On one of the outer islands we visited there was still a lot of rice but a good mix of breadfruit and other traditional foods. It is hard to say whether the health of the population of Majuro was better than the outer islanders. The outer islands had more access to breadfruit, and fish but had other health issues, diarrhea etc.. The outer island people certainly led a more active lifestyle and seemed happier to me. I know the time I spent away from 40+ phone calls and 80+ emails a day for work certainly made me happier!


    20 Apr 05 at 1:09 pm

  4. Yokwe LaKevin & everyone,

    Kommol ta ta for the feedback.

    I know that there are complex dynamics in how families eat. Money, time, land rights, food status and simple preference make for different situations in each house. I’ve met people (anthropologists) who insist that the status of the food (imported vs. local) is the big deciding factor. This might be an issue for high visibility events like kemens, but I tend to think it is more rational (money & taste) for everyday foods.

    There is a new New York Times article on body type. You can read a summary of it at another site:
    It appears that people that carry a little extra weight are about as well off as those who are thinner. It seems other things (exercise? nutrition? genetics?) are bigger determinants in health than just weight or BMI. I suspect that what makes a Pacific Islander healthy might not be good for an Asian or ri-belle. I’m not even sure what is good for a Polynesian would be right for a Micronesian.

    You’ll need a NYT login to read the whole article. I think I still have an active account, and can login and e-mail it.

    I suspect that survival on an outer atoll requires a lot of work (and always did.) The benefit of the large population of Marshallese (compared to the preceding 2000 years) means that not everyone can live on their baamle’s wato in a traditional way. There are too many mouths to feed. Maybe the migration to the urban centers took place too quickly, though. I bet a lot of the urban poor would be healthier back on their home atoll. Would they want to return?

    I’d love to give up the PC and “modern” life. I suspect that after a month I’d be going crazy and driving everyone else on the atoll crazy also. If I had a trunk of books, I’d probably last a year. Do the children who grew up on Ebeye or Majuro want to go back and live with bubu, if it means none of the urban luxuries (food and entertainment) they’re accustomed to? A lot might be better off. My nephew would be better off without his GameBoy, but he isn’t going to willingly give it up.

    Didn’t one of the irooj laplaps from Kwajalein force/suggest that some poor families that weren’t doing well on Ebeye return to their home atoll? I thought this was a couple years back.

    Good discussion.

    Bar Yokwe,


    Census maps of Micronesians living in the U.S.:

    Survey of Marshallese Nutrition Choices:


    21 Apr 05 at 9:41 am

  5. First I want to put God infront of my comment.

    The body is the temple of Holy Spirit im kio juon ao kajitok ijin kwojab aikwij in ba mona ke ej bar motan jerawiwi ilo ad mona kaine an rice,im men ko eirlok wot kin ikijien ekatak kin nutrition food is more different from smoking cigeratte,drinking alcohol,etc that cause our health bad. I agree with lakavin comment. I like to say except Jesus Christ in you life and I believe that he’s gonna show you what the bad and good thing you didn’t know about. I’m gonna pray for you and ask lord to guide you also to teach you what the good and bad thing you wanted to know about. Thank you.


    26 Apr 06 at 4:55 am

  6. Hey LaKevin
    I’ve always come to and read all the comments and articles and all these thing. But I like the way that you reply by saying that the bible says.

    And it is true that the bible says, and I read these scripture and i think it is important that all pastors should reconsider reading these passages.

    Anyway I agree with you LaKevin that we need to teach our kids or our people what is right amount of food we should eat and what kind food that is best for our health. Also I think all the pastors should do the same thing by teach their congregation about these kind matters. I think you all of you that are willing to makes different to our people. God Bless


    2 May 06 at 2:54 pm

  7. Sorry, it I thank you all for willing to makes different to our people


    2 May 06 at 2:56 pm

  8. jesus eat his father word….

    Kabua Donald

    25 Oct 07 at 9:51 am

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