Jenny Sansom, the project officer for Foyer Healthy Ambassadors project, successfully developed and ran 10 'food and mood' workshops for nearly 100 young people from 12 Foyers, which provide supported accommodation for 16-25 year olds who are homeless.
Support was also given to Foyer staff, who work directly with the young people, equipping them with the information and contacts to help residents in the longer term.
Jenny has consolidated links with national mental health charity Together over the last six months and is contributing a food and mental health element to staff induction. Jenny is also developing a joint funding bid for the Big Lottery Local Food Fund. This initiative aims to work with 12 of Together's mental health centres to demonstrate the links between food and mood, and to develop an action plan with residents to improve their diets.
Jenny still produces the monthly round up of information on food and mood and the e-network continues to expand. She is also developing a project idea to persuade GPs about the mental health benefits of community food projects such as food growing and cookery clubs.
In April 2008, Jenny Sansom became the new Project Officer for the Food and Mental Health Project for two days per week. This quarter the project has broadened its role as the link between the theory and the practice of food and mental health.
In early 2008, Sustain was awarded a contract with Foyer Federation to work with young people on food and mood at Foyers around the UK. Foyers are 'integrated learning and accommodation centres' for young people aged 16-25 who are without housing. Young people who do not live with their parents at this pivotal time of life often miss out on learning key cooking skills, and often experience emotional problems. Jenny has developed an interactive workshop based on discussion and quiz activities, tasting new foods, practical cookery, farm visits, and action planning.
By the end of the summer she will have worked with 13 different Foyers across the country. The course is designed to enable residents and staff to understand the effect that their food has on their mental state, and also to help them create longer term action plans for healthier eating. We are pleased to report that young people have responded very well so far. The project has also been developing new ideas and funding bids with a number of other organisations.
The project has continued its networking role by expanding and supporting the food and mental health network to which it provides a monthly email news roundup. We have received many new requests to join the network and we continue to respond to regular enquiries.
We are delighted that we have been chosen to implement the Foyer Federation's Lottery funded Healthy Eating project. Fiona has continued to send monthly roundups to a growing network of over 100 members, and has been encouraging network members to share information.
Fiona has also been in discussion with Together: Working for Wellbeing (who provide residential care) to develop a pilot project. Together's recent Action Pack on Wellbeing includes extracts from, and information about, the Food and Mental Health project's report and project.
Following the launch of the Associate Parliamentary Food and Health Forum's report into the links between diet, mental health and behaviour (to which we submitted evidence), Sustain and Food Matters hosted a roundtable discussion in February with members of our Food and Mental Health network. Over 30 people attended the event. A report of ideas resulting from the discussion was sent out to participants and we plan to pursue these in the coming months.
Sustain submitted a letter for consideration to the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) back in September 2007 and the committee discussed the submission at their 'horizon scanning' meeting in October. The minutes are online at http://www.sacn.gov.uk/.
Fiona has commented on a draft chapter on nutritional therapy for The Foundation for Integrated Health. The guidelines aim to advise on the development of integrated health in NHS mental health services and are expected to be published in June 2008.
At the end of April, Fiona left and we have now recruited a new part-time project officer, Jenny Sansom.
As well as talking to current network members Fiona has also been meeting new organisations such as Young Minds, Rethink and Pupil Referral Units. This has not only recruited new members to the network but also led to some collaborative activities, including:
- Advising a mental health charity called Together-Working for Wellbeing on a pilot project to promote the links between food and mental health
- Providing support for a regional programme to raise awareness of mental health issues in schools
In addition, Fiona continues to:
- Compile monthly round-ups
- Update the website
- Plan an event with Food Matters in Spring, which will follow the January report of the Parliamentary Food and Health forum inquiry into the links between diet, mental health and behaviour.
The Parliamentary Food and Health Forum inquiry (see p15) was launched on 31 January. We are also awaiting the minutes of the October meeting of the Food Standards Agency's Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN).
The project has also responded to a consultation on the Mental Wellbeing of Children in primary education undertaken by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence, and will comment on draft guidelines being drawn up by The Foundation for Integrated Health.