Members of the Unification Church, started by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon in the 1950s, endured even worse treatment. Teddy Hose, who grew up in the cult in the 1980s and '90s, explained that they would eat a lot of Korean food at church events, but that there was also a "suffer-for-God mentality, so some people would go on a fast for a week." Hose describes Moon as a "degrading, power-hungry guy…[who] would sometimes point out women in lectures and say, 'No one wants to marry a fat girl.'" As a result, people in the church were very health-conscious and critical of the American diet. (Interestingly, the church's reach extended to the greater food world, too: It owns True World Foods, the main supplier of sushi to restaurants in the US.)
Rev. Sun Myung Moon would point out women in lectures and say, 'No one wants to marry a fat girl.'
Damian Paul, who was the third son of The Source Family and now owns The Source Natural Foods in Hawaii, says Baker was into the idea of discipline. He based his philosophy on the teachings of his spiritual guru Yogi Bhajan, and would put members on various vegetarian diets. For one diet, they ate only eight different ingredients—including eggplant, filbert nuts, tomatoes, and alfalfa sprouts—for 30 days. "To this day I can't eat filberts," he says, "and the smell of wheatgrass nauseates me."
For one diet, The Source Family ate only eggplant, filbert nuts, tomatoes, and alfalfa sprouts for 30 days.
While not as totally ascetic as Breatharianism, Jim Jones' dietary orders to his followers of the Peoples Temple could swing from moderate to severe. On the relatively less-extreme end, Jones advocated for soybeans because they were considered a "nuclear war/atomic bomb preventative…so you could be in a nuclear zone and be protected because you ate soybeans," according to Laura Kohl, a former member and Jonestown survivor. When the cult relocated from the US to Guyana, the menu was heavy on cereal and rice. "Cheap rice, rice with gravy with little pieces of meat in it. We rarely had any kind of real meat at dinner," Kohl says. "My favorite lunch in Guyana was to have platanos—fried platanos sandwiches on bread with cheese."Before the cult relocated, though, Jones made overweight members "wire their mouths closed so they could only have milkshakes," says Kohl. "[He] wanted everyone to be obsessed with him and not with anything else, including food," she says. "So it was kind of a minimalist [diet]."Jones went to lengths to conceal this from the public. Sherwin Harris, who had family in the cult and is a co-founder of the Concerned Relatives group, recalls going to a meal at the Jonetown Lamaha Gardens headquarters in Georgetown: "It was an ordinary chicken dinner. However, during this meal…I observed a line of residents of the house at the back kitchen door holding their bowls awaiting a serving of cereal of some kind, which was to be their lunch. Apparently chicken dinners were not for the rank and file, and I was being given a show, as was their MO."Of course, it was ultimately a drink that killed over 900 people in the Jonestown massacre, where people both voluntarily and involuntarily ingested cyanide and inadvertently gave birth to the factually faulty phrase "drink the Kool-Aid."And a deadly cult food legacy is sure to outlast the more healthful ones, like that of The Source. During her time with the group, Isis Aquarian's favorite meal was The Source Special. "[It was] an open-faced sandwich, a grated beet and grated carrot salad on sprouts, with a whole lot of garlic and raisins, of all things," she recalls. "It was the greatest little salad ever, with The Source dressing. The Source dressing was another thing that was really, really phenomenal…people who have had it, to this day, still talk about the Source dressing."
Jim Jones made overweight members 'wire their mouths closed so they could only have milkshakes.'