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Food Pioneer Gladys Kidd Jennings: ‘Our Bodies Were Intended for Use, Not for Pushing a Button’

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Curators and highlighters of news and accomplishments from the Global Majority. From tech to books, wellness to money, throughout the diaspora we are bringing content that is both unique and focused on showing the world our best.

Throughout her career, Gladys Kidd Jennings has won numerous awards for her pioneering work in the field of nutrition and dietetics.

The nutritionist, philanthropist, and granddaughter of slaves was born on October 11, 1925, in Columbus, Ohio

Kidd Jennings shared the secret to living a long healthy life with the publication.

“It’s not just the eating, it’s also about lifestyle. Our bodies were intended for use, not for pushing a button. So the more that you can use your body physically, the better off you are,” she explained. “I came to driving late, so I was really a reluctant driver. I’ve always felt that some of my longevity is due to using my body as it was intended—to walk. So your body needs to move about and your body needs to have sunlight. Your body needs to have peace of mind.”

Kidd Jennings made history at Washington State when she became the first African American woman to graduate with a master’s degree from that institution in 1948.

Since then, Cooper Kidd has taught at various prestigious colleges, including Syracuse, Spelman, and North Carolina Central University, before becoming the president of the National Organization of Blacks in Dietetics and Nutrition — a role she held for more than three decades.

In a recent interview with Women’s Health, she talked in detail about her lifelong work to revolutionize nutrition for Black Americans.

“My maternal grandmother was born enslaved in the U.S. Her job was to keep the master’s child comfortable while she was having school lessons. So my grandmother subconsciously got some education,” she explained.

“She was about 11 years old when the Emancipation Proclamation came and, because she could read and write, was enlisted to teach the adult former slaves. Her mother had to be the enforcer and discipline in the classroom because, you know, adults aren’t gonna listen to no kid. Other people took interest in her afterwards and she was educated and trained,” she continued. Kidd Jennings admits that as a child, she did not fully appreciate her grandmother’s story. But she says she owes her stellar academic resume all to her.

She says her mother used to tell her, “You must get an education to get ahead and you must be a credit to your race,” adding, “It was my grandmother’s influence, I’m sure.”

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